“Imagine you are a mountain biker cycling in one of the most remote desert mountains, probably you are a researcher located in the remote temperate regions of the world and would be there for up to 90 days, you could even be a soldier in the battle field, very far from the nearest mess or restaurant. In all of these scenarios, you would ask, what are your options when you want to eat? Your best option would be to pull out a pack of MRE and satisfy your hunger, as it would be sitting right there in your back pack.
What are MREs?
MRE is an acronym that stands for Meals Ready to Eat. There is an old saying, â€œThe way to a manâ€™s heart is his stomachâ€, â€œand an army travels on its stomach””. These are statements of fact and are consistent with nature. Without food, everyone would feel stressed and fatigued and this would significantly reduce our rate of productivity.
Food is without a doubt, fuel for the human, body providing building blocks for maintenance and the repair process. There is also the physiological benefits that comes along with eating good food. Staled or bad food may be nutritious, but will not satisfy anyone, hence no one will eat it. There is no happiness derived from the consumption of bad food, else, we would all be happy to eat dry bread like animals in the street, there is no doubting the fact that nutritious and healthy food is essential to the happiness of man, thatâ€™s the physiological benefit.
Based on these facts there is no doubting the reason why the United States Military spends an outstanding amount of time and money supplying its troops with survival food kits. Survival food is just as important as fuel is for the vehicles and ammunitions for weapons. Little wonder it is expressly stated on that package of MREs that lack of food leads to loss of motivation, decreased level of endurance and rapid loss of weight.
What is inside a packet of MRE?
Generally speaking, a box of MRE survival food may measure 8-1/4″” by 4-3/4″” by 3/4″” inches in dimension, assuming itâ€™s labelled Chicken and sauce, inside the pack, you will find a flexible pouch containing chicken servings and sauce. Assuming it is labelled wiled and yellow Rice, inside is a flexible pouch which contains 142 gram, (5-ounce) of rice servings.
Specifically talking of a brand of survival food kits, XMRE is one. On the average, a pack of freshly packaged XMRE contains over 1300 calories with military food ready to eat. Depending on the method of storage, it has an extended shelf life of over 5 years.
A complete XMRE meal contains 1 fruit flavoured beverage, 1 non-dairy creamer, 1 instant coffee, 1 cracker/bread, 2-3 snack/dessert/side, an optional flameless heater and 1 wet towelette, all are packaged in a military grade tamper and water proof package.
MREs from different manufactures offers consumerâ€™s different features, specific to XMRE products, here are some features:
- Made Ready To Eat.
- Made with components that are same grade with US military MRE
- Tested in battle
- Does not require water as they are fully cooked
- Can be eaten from the pack anytime
- An optional Military Flameless Radiation heater.
What is the taste?
When talking about MREs, one question comes to mind, how does it taste? Basically, it tastes just like any other food out a can does. If you have had Chef Boy-R-Dee spaghetti out of a can, which is about what the MRE version of spaghetti in meat sauce tastes like, then you have an idea of what survival food tastes like.
Tri-Laminate Retort Pouch is the official package for MREs. Basically, this is a flexible material, made out of very thick plastic layers and aluminium foil. Another method of packaging is canning, this is a very common method of food preservation that has been in use for centuries. Either ways, whether canning in steel can or in flexible pouch, the principle remains the same. The food is boiled in the can to kill any bacterial and then sealed either while boiling or after boiling to prevent any new bacterial from getting into it. The food in the can will never go bad because it is completely sterile. Once the can is opened, bacterial and other micro-organisms gain access to the food, attacking it, hence all such foods must be refrigerated. If you carefully look on the package of these foods, you will observe that this instructions is right there on the pack, this means that the package is sterile until you open it.
When we mention â€œcansâ€, the first thing that comes to mind is a metal container, but the fact is that any sealable container can serve as a can, it does not have to be made of steel. Glass jars can also be sealed after the contents are boiled. However, most persons prefer freezing to canning because boiling meals in cans changes the taste as well as texture.
In the case of MREs, pouches being used as â€œstorage containersâ€ because they offer the following benefits:
- They are much lighter.
- They are a lot more flexible meaning that they can withstand more abuse in the field of play.
- As a result of its flat shape, it is more convenient to carry around in the pocket.
This flat shape gives it more advantage in the industry during processing. The MRE pouch is filled with food, sealed and boiled to sterilise the content. As a result of the flat nature, it takes less time to heat and sterilise the content. In most cases, this leads to a meal that tastes a lot better since sterilisation time is shorter.
For most persons, they prefer warm meals to cold ones. This is mostly the case when they are in a cold region. There is no fun in eating cold spaghetti, but on the other hand, a hot meal can uplift the spirit of a soldier. This is the reason we include a flameless heater with our XMRE packages. Heat is generated by a simple chemical reaction which warms the food.
Chemical heating is something everyone can understand. We have all seen steel rust, this is quite a slow process however, it is faster when it is wet and steel exposed to salty water rusts the fastest. The process of steel rusting generates heat, but this is not noticed as it is a very slow process. But magnesium which rusts faster than iron works better. It is on this basis that heat is generated by flameless heaters with which XMRE are cooked.
Salt is mixed with magnesium dust and a small quantity of iron dust. To generate heat, a small amount of water is added and within a few seconds, the heater reaches boiling point and starts bubbling. To heat the meal, the heater and the MRE pouch is simply inserted in the box that came with it and in about 10 minutes, the meal is ready to serve.
Manufactures of survival food kits has increased the survival food list and here are some of them:
- “”Beefsteak w/Mushrooms and Western Beans””
- “”Pork Rib and Clam Chowder””
- “”Beef Ravioli and Potato Sticks””
- “”Country Captain Chicken and Buttered Noodles””
- “”Chicken Breast and Minestrone Stew””
- “”Chicken w/Thai Sauce and Yellow/Wild Rice Pilaf””
- “”Chicken w/Salsa and Mexican Rice””
- “”Beef Patty and Nacho Cheese Pretzels””
- “”Beef Stew””
- “”Chili and Macaroni””
- “”Pasta w/Vegetables in Tomato Sauce””
- “”Black Bean & Rice Burrito””
- “”Cheese Tortellini””
- “”Manicotti w/Vegetables””
- “”Beef Enchiladas””
- “”Chicken w/Noodles””
- “”Beef Teriyaki””
- “”Turkey Breast w/Gravy & Potatoes””
- “”Roast Beef””
- “”Spaghetti w/Meat Sauce””
- “”Chicken Tetrazzini””
- “”Chicken w/Cavatelli””
- “”Meat Loaf w/Gravy””
Consumers have a much wider variety to choose from.
A Brief History on MREs.
Over the centuries, nations have been fighting wars for a very long time and for an army on the move, food has always been an issue. Today, with MRE, itâ€™s different, but when we look back, we appreciate the fact that survival food has come a very long way.
Take a drive to North Carolina, right there is a restored fort that was used during the Civil war and the Spanish American war. There is a restored storage for food and a kitchen as it would have been years ago. Back then, the barrel was used as the main unit of storage, meat was preserved with salt, it was stored in barrels with salts as this prevented it from being affected with bacteria.
Rice and flour were stored in barrels, although bread could easily be baked at these storage fort, soldiers in the field ate hardtack. These we very hard biscuits. If you know how hard dog biscuit is, then you have an idea of how hardtack was.
Back then at Fort Macon, a soldierâ€™s daily ration at the time of the civil war looked like this:
- 56 ounces Peas or beans or 1.6 ounces of rice. An additional options was 1.5 ounces of desiccated potatoes and an ounce of desiccated mixed.
- 12 ounces of hard bread (Hardtack), 1 pound 4 ounces of corn meal or eighteen ounces of flour or soft bread.
- Three quarters of Pork or Bacon and a pound and four ounces of fresh or salted beef.
Itâ€™s obvious that survival food kits, MREs have come a long way and have come to stay. They find application in many scenarios. These could be used while responding to the after math of a natural disaster, when you go on excursion or camping or on a mountain adventure and even by law enforcement agents when they find themselves in remote areas. It all boils down to the age long saying, an army travels on its stomach.“