The History of MRE’s

Written by The Ready Store

Many people know that MRE stands for Meal Ready to Eat and that they are used by the US Military but few know the history behind this innovative and life sustaining product.

MREs first came into existence in 1981 to replace the heavy canned Meal, Combat, Individual Rations (MCI) meals that had been in use since the Civial War in the 1860s. The full meals consisted mostly of beef, peas, and rice. Over time the military tried various methods to reduce weight, one effort was to send troops dried or salted meats so that they could carry the meals with them.

The Department of Defense began development of Meals Ready to Eat in 1963 in which modern food preparation and packaging technologies were being implemented to help bring down the weight of the rations. Various versions were experimented with over time to better serve their purpose.

Other interesting MRE Facts

– Commercial graphics were added to packaging in 1994 as studies showed increased consumption by the troops
– In 1984 biodegradeable spoons were introduced for a friendlier environmental impact.
– Military grade MRE are not available to the public but the same manufacturers create civilian MREs that are legal to supply to the public.
– MRE cases must be able to withstand a 1,250 foot parachute drop.

Updated October 8, 2010


  1. William Dinwiddie wrote:

    Do you know what happened to LRRP rations, pronounced lurp (LRRP = Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol). They were freeze dried rations that required adding water, and although they were supposed to rehydrate without cooking, most required at least minimal cooking to make them completely edible. I saw them sometimes in Viet Nam, as well as C rations all the time. Some of the C rats were quite a few years old. Examined by food inspectors every years after original expiration dates.

    October 10th, 2010 at 11:22 pm
  2. Bill Dean wrote:

    I’ve still got a case of LRRPs, pulled one out this summer: still good

    October 11th, 2010 at 3:48 am
  3. Gary Schilling wrote:

    Then there were the K-rations a bit before till sometime after WW1 era. It is said that the K-9 got better rations from red-hart and some of the dog handlers would opt to eat the red-hart and feed the dogs the K-rats if they were hungry enough to wolf them down. K-rats were dried and had to be masticated (chewed) to get them hydrated enough to swallow. Jerky and pilot crackers type of stuff.
    From the annuals of history when it was mor like histeria!

    October 11th, 2010 at 7:09 am
  4. tjbbpgobIII wrote:

    I have even eaten k rations when I was in V.N. They had to be cooked or just heated like c-rations were. There were some c rations that were good (as far as c rations go), we even got hold of some LLRP rations, but all any of that stuff does is furnish you with protein and constipation.

    October 11th, 2010 at 10:17 am
  5. JWest wrote:

    1. LRRPs were mountain house freeze dried meals, a fruit flavored grain bar and the condiment package.
    2. Could add water, stick under clothing to warm, and eat most of them ok.
    3. Got issued them when they were trying to suck up to us because we were tasked with something stupid or dangerous.
    4. Never welcomed the sight of the things….
    V/R JWest

    October 11th, 2010 at 2:07 pm
  6. Brent reece wrote:

    Preferred the c-rats to MRES…in the 80’s they were nasty!!

    C-rats were always edible….and we traded the cigs/peanut butter/jelly and cheez whiz/crackers.

    The German kids grabbed it up like candy when we tossed it out to waving crowds in convoys during reforger’81.

    October 12th, 2010 at 8:12 am
  7. Dave W wrote:

    Who is writting the Blog’s there.They are getting dumber,and dumber.What is next the History of my boot?
    You pencil pushers are all the same.This is how you should do it:Take 10 MRE’s and walk into the woods,stay there for 10 days.Having nothing to eat but your MRE’s.Come back and tell us what you think.Get a little hands on with your products.

    October 13th, 2010 at 9:45 am
  8. admin wrote:

    Love it Dave! Actually we do that. We each of us take the MRE’s and other food storage out in the hills and mountains regularly and live off of them. But we could do a better job about telling you about it. We’ll get you some more posts like that soon! :)

    October 15th, 2010 at 8:37 am
  9. Bobk90 wrote:

    I joined the ARMY in 1981 and we were still getting C-Rations, though they did not have the smokes but did have the Famous P-38 can opener…which I still carry today!!!The best item in C-rations was the Fruit in my opinion and I hated the Natural Peanut Butter because the work to open it wasn’t worth it! Another thing that was GREAT about the C-Rats was that you could open it almost all the way, bend the it out and set it right into the fire for a real hot meal!!! The MRE’s really sucked in the 80’s compared to the C-Rats we got that were from the late 60’s and early 70’s. The MRE’s of the 80’s might have had less weight but not as good as C-Rats. I remember the MRE meal of Meatballs with Sauce that looked like you were eating ‘Rabbit’ Terds LMAO!!! Anyone stationed at Bragg in the 80’s??? Give me a shout at

    December 9th, 2010 at 7:26 am
  10. Gina wrote:

    I remember my dad having some assorted rations and one of items he had was cake in the can. I loved it but never never knew what exact flavor it was and I remember the cans being gold inside and army green on the outside.

    February 8th, 2014 at 12:03 pm
  11. Verity wrote:

    Actually i really appreciate history of any kind. Listening to what my troops were/are eating in the trenches helps me to experience a moment in the life of the combat soldier. Thank you for sharing the history of MRIs. If someone finds it tedious there are plenty of other blogs to choose from. Please continue sharing this type of history, for history molds us into what we are today. Verity

    September 11th, 2014 at 12:25 am
  12. Outlaw wrote:

    I was with Recon team in Nam and we were issued LRRPs and C-Rats for our patrols. Never had problems with the food in LRRP meals re-hydrating and we almost never had heated water to use since that might have given our position away. The exception was when we were socked in and could use a slice of C4 to heat water in our canteen cups for coffee.

    November 13th, 2014 at 7:10 pm

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