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Anatomy of an MRE
By Don Martin - (contact)

Introduction

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        (MREs have shown up in a number of discussions here as well as in the news. We all sort of know what they are, but a bit more detail will help you work out how they fit into your touring kit.)

MREs are:

        - Meals, Ready to Eat and were developed in the mid 1970s as part of an updated plan to feed U.S. Army soldiers. The key new technology was the 'retort pouch,' a multi-layer plastic and foil envelope that is lighter, handier, and allows gentler processing than the tinned steel and aluminum cans used to package C-rations. Many of us were sorry to see the demise of "screaming yellow death", cheese spread, fruit cake, and other C-ration classics but, to be honest, not that sorry. C-rations were a pain to carry and a pain to eat (he-man charm aside) and there were few complaints when MREs replaced them in the early 1980's.

        - A registered trademark. Not that anybody pays any attention.

        - Durable (designed to be pitched out of a helicopter 100 feet up, with no further ado and no damage)

MRE's are NOT:

        - An ultra-long shelf life item. They are not perishable, but they are designed to last three years at temperatures below 80F. They should last ten years or more if refrigerated, but hey, if you have a refrigerator, why are you eating MREs? They are not shelf stable for many years as some freeze dried and/or inert gas packed survival foods are.

        - Lightweight. Unless five pounds a day counts as lightweight.

        - Intended for long term use. Classic combat rations (D rations, K rations, C rations) were intended to be suitable for a few days only. MREs are much better balanced and officially good to go for ten days. In practice, troops have lived for months on nothing but MREs.

        - Available for commercial sale. For 10 years, government MREs have been clearly marked 'U.S.GOVERNMENT PROPERTY' 'COMMERCIAL RESALE IS UNLAWFUL.' In practice, they are a common item on E-Bay as well as through surplus and survival outlets. What this really means is, Let The Buyer Beware! If you are not careful, you will be buying rations that are out of date, illegally diverted, or are cheap (sometimes very cheap!) imitations of the real thing.


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"Anatomy of an MRE" Copyright © 2008-2014 By Don Martin - (contact). All rights reserved.
Page was created on February 3, 2008 14:24 PDT, last updated on February 3, 2008 14:31 PDT
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