MRE Fast Facts
Updated 5 March 2000

MRE Fast Facts

  • The Meal, Ready-to-Eat (MRE) was first served to soldiers in 1980. The MRE replaced the Meal, Individual (better known as C-Rations) which had been used since the Vietnam War.

  • MREs have approximately 1300 calories (5439 kJ) per meal with 55% of the energy from carbohydrates, 35% from fat and 15% from protein.

  • MREs are shelf stable for a minimum of 3 years at 80oF (26oC) and a minimum of 6 months at 100oF (38oC)

  • MREs are designed to withstand harsh military transportation requirements, including airdrop with and without parachutes and storage at -60oF (-51oC) up to 120oF (49oC). Chemicals and preservatives are not used to extend the shelf life of the MRE

  • Protecting the meals form oxygen and moisture, the tri-laminate foil packaging is the secret to the MRE's shelf-life. Oxygen and moisture are two primary factors in food spoilage.

  • Oxygen scavengers absorb excess oxygen to preserve freshness

  • Vacuum seals keep out moisture and oxygen

  • Thermal process, canning in a pouch, protects entrees and fruits. Exposing the cooked meal to high heat and pressure kills any microorganisms that cause mold and spoiling.

  • MRE menus are designed using feedback from soldiers in field. Surveys are conducted several times each year.

  • As a result of customer feedback, over 50 new items have been included and approximately 12 items have been discontinued since 1993. By 1998, there will be 24 menus available doubling the current variety.

  • Offering soldiers a taste of home, commercial items such as M&Ms and granola bars have been incorporated into the MRE. Ethnic foods and vegetarian meals have also become more popular.

  • MREs meet the military recommended daily allowance (RDA) guidelines established by the surgeon general. Developed for a healthy and extremely active population, the military RDA is higher in calories and protein requirements.

  • The flameless ration heater lets soldiers heat their meals in the field. When soldiers add one ounce of water there is a reaction with the magnesium iron compound causing the water to boil. By placing the entree pouch into the boiling water, a hot meal will be ready in 10 minutes. The heating process produces no chemical byproducts.

  • Since 1993, a flameless ration heater and an individual jar of Tabasco sauce have been included in each MRE.

Source: U.S. Army Soldier Systems Command
Public Affairs Office
Kansas Street
Natick, MA 01760-5012
(508) 233-4300

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