Preparedness blog

The Difference Between Civilian MREs & Military MREs

By Ben from Ready Store
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Military MRE Contents

We’ve received a lot of questions over the years about the differences between civilian and military MREs. Does one last longer than the other? Are they equally nutritious? Which should you stock your food storage with? To get started, let’s see the differences between civilian and military MREs.


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What’s The Difference?

In short, there’s not much of a difference. Both civilian and military MREs are made for use by the Department of Defense (DOD), and the most noticeable difference is their packaging. Military MREs also include a few additional accessories. Otherwise, civilian and military MREs are equally reliable and nutritious.

So, which should you be prepared with in the case of an emergency? Let’s start by looking at what each MRE contains:

5-Year Full Meal Civilian MRE Contents

  • Main dish entree
  • Side dish
  • Cracker with spread
  • Dessert
  • Electrolyte beverage mix
  • Coffee and creamer
  • Accessory pack includes:
    • Spoon
    • Salt
    • Pepper
    • Wet Wipes
    • Sugar
    • Napkins

5-Year Full Meal Military MRE Contents:

  • Main dish entree
  • Side dish
  • Cracker with spread
  • Dessert
  • Electrolyte beverage mix
  • Coffee and creamer
  • Standard accessory pack plus:
    • Tabasco sauce
    • Gum (1 piece)
    • Toilet paper

 

 

See a civilian MRE unpacked here

As you can see, civilian and military MRE contents are almost identical. Both types have 1,250 calories per meal on average, and they even use the same MRE heater. So, if the only difference is a few additional accessories in military MREs, why buy civilian MREs?

The Benefits of Civilian MREs

As we mentioned earlier, one of the main differences is the MREs packaging. DOD military MREs use very specific packaging that states it is specifically for U.S. Military use, and not for commercial resale. Although you may have seen “genuine military MREs” for sale, it is illegal to buy or sell military MREs.

Back in 2005, after Hurricane Katrina, military personnel were reported to have sold them with the intent of making a profit. Since military MREs can undergo more demanding treatment and temperature changes, its buyer may not be aware of its now shortened shelf life. As you’d imagine, this is problematic. When we count on a product for emergency preparedness, we should have a clear expectation of its lifetime.

When you buy an MRE from a dealer like The Ready Store, you can be confident it has been stored gently and trust the printed expiration date is accurate.

Now more than ever, being ready for anything just makes sense. Stocking your food storage with full meal MREs is a great way to ensure you and your family will have ample food available in the case of a disaster. They’re perfect for packing into a backpack on any outing, storing in a 72-hour kit, or simply eating at home if other food is unavailable.

 

Update: The Ready Store still has ample stock of MREs, with 1-12 month supplies available. Order your full meal MREs today.

5 years ago
Comments
Tom
8 years ago at 4:10 PM
DoD MRE's are non-restock items, meaning that once they are issued they need to be either consumed or disposed of; they cannot go back into the system for reissue. When you buy genuine DoD ones, you are literally getting ones that have been out already, so unless you know the Soldier directly you can't be sure of the true age or the temperature they were stored in. The "real deal" CAN be better than civilian ones, but it's also a gamble. With civilian ones such as this, they may not be quite the same, but they're still really good, and you can guarantee the date and how they were stored.
Tom
8 years ago at 4:13 PM
I have my doubts about the illegality of selling DoD ones though, since the on post Commissaries have been selling them for a little over $8 each for quite some time now, and DECA is a separate civilian agency (Defense Exchange Commissary Agency) not directly under the DoD.
Angela
2 years ago at 8:12 AM
Tom I think the real MRE has more sodium and slightly more calories but can withstand extreme temperatures for a short while. I can't recall anything in the UCMJ against it. I would rather see it sold than wasted just like some of us sold our gear when we left active duty. It helped us AND also helped whoever bought it for their inspections or field use.
Kurt
8 months ago at 12:14 PM
That is for sale to military members only ( as you need a DoD ID to shop there).
Joel Hillman
6 years ago at 3:14 AM
Can you ship to Australia and what is the price for shipping
Beverly Lohr
6 years ago at 3:57 PM
There is a difference between civilian and military MRES we lived off of them after Katrina. And I promise there is a difference.
Kelli
5 years ago at 4:13 PM
If you promise there is a difference, could you please tell us what that difference is?
T
5 years ago at 12:28 PM
Military have 3500 calories Non Military have 2000 calories
T. Cooper
5 years ago at 4:09 AM
Your absolutely right....Just take into account how many calories the average soldier burns up in a day out in the field.
Kevin Z Byrne
2 years ago at 11:31 PM
The military issue MRE's have fortified items like the bread and peanutbutter giving them the higher calorie count. In the military MRE's all candy is unmarked. Those items are traded amongst soldiers in the field. Trust me I was giving away red hots and whatever else was in the blank packages until someone told me in Blue phase of basic. Anyway they do have way higher calorie counts.
Larry
1 year ago at 7:01 AM
Soldiers sometimes work hard, sometimes they lay around or do admin things. I would know, I was one of them. Not every single day did we need 3500 calories, I can tell you that.
Lee
10 months ago at 12:04 PM
How about the food flavor etc. I think that is the big difference that some of us are interested in. Is there a difference in the flavor or quality of food? We have all heard stories about lousy military food...
Robbie
6 years ago at 3:29 AM
Not if the writer has a restrictive creative license. You can't modify e-books, and because an ebook is sold directly from the writer or firm (if you don't sell directly then you're a fool) there isn't a resale. If a person copy-pastes then they are committing commercial plagiarism, which is a felony. The creative license protects from plagiarism, and suing (if someone who doesn't have a liscenes and attempts to sue a writer for using similar names or themes, then the sue will be dropped.) I am a writer, you can look all that up, and anyone who gives an 'ebook' for resale is an idiot. There shouldn't be a resale on electronic transactions.
B
2 years ago at 9:35 AM
How does plaigarism relate to MREs.
Paul
5 years ago at 7:27 AM
I've used DoD military MREs and commercial MREs available at the Ready Store. They are both equivalent except with packaging differences. Those that have the ability to purchase DoD military MREs through DoD commissaries, should note that many of these MREs have had their storage life extended past their original period by health professionals, likely from the US Army's VETCOM. There is likely a documented relationship between appropriated and non-appropriated functions on military installations to use commissaries to recoup some of the sunk costs into older MREs that have not expired. I am not aware of limitations on personnel to re-sell DoD military MREs, if they were purchased them from an authorized source; I believe you should likely have the right to re-sell. If you were issued military MREs for training purposes and did not use them, they should not re-sell; that would be in the category of fraud, waste and abuse.
Dani Bambei
5 years ago at 11:57 PM
Under no circumstances would I want to purchase product that is close to being outdated if I were to purchase your product what guarantee what I have that your product is freshly produced?
Byron Armel
1 year ago at 9:05 AM
If you are referring to the inspection date this date is NOT a expiration date. It is a date used to rotate MRE's for use. MRE's will last years after the inspection date.
David
5 years ago at 12:04 PM
Lets have a little common sense with these things. I had a bunch with expiration dates of 1993 which presumably means produced in 1988! As an experiment I decided to try them as opposed to throwing them away. First, the tobasco sauce looked a little dark so was canned. Second, inspection of the cheese spreads and jelly looked and smelled gross so were canned. Third, the crackers (hard little squares) were perfectly edible but had a slightly stale taste! Everything else was perfectly good. If the SHTF and your starving, your going to say NO!??? Be real! I think the early ones had MSG so if allergic to it be careful! Conclusion, they have a long long life unless grossly temperature mistreated.
Tamo
2 years ago at 1:04 AM
Please tell me you put those out on a tray? Nice.
David
5 years ago at 12:27 PM
P.S. forgot to mention calories. Each MRE contains about 1200 calories which are largely derived from carbs and sugar! If your diabetic go for the freeze dried or dehydrated foods and read the description very carefully before ordering! That will tell you the carb and sugar content, then choose wisely.
P. Mitchell
3 years ago at 12:50 PM
OK I just bought some MRE's on eBay and after receiving them noticed the packaging says " Property of US government not for commercial sale" ? I contacted the seller and they said like any item (discarded) by the military they can be resold. Well the Manufacture date is 5/2017, so I'm not seeing why the Government would be discarding ? Are these falling off a truck. I'm not happy purchasing items that have been "Procured" from my Government and making a profit. Hell didn't I already pay for these once when paying Federal Taxes.
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adam
2 years ago at 7:33 AM
love mre. been eating them since I was in high shool takeing my brothers take home from reserve weekends. and I can say old mre's live well beyond the 5 year shelf life theyre suppose to have. sometimes youll get one or two bad out of a case but I stil buy cases and use them the difference is the new ones are full of soy fillers and other stuff that the older (20) years ago didn't have. or at least as I remember.
Angela
2 years ago at 8:16 AM
I think the real MRE has more sodium and more calories but can withstand extreme temperatures for a short while. I can't recall anything in the UCMJ against it. I would rather see it sold than wasted just like some of us sold our gear when we left active duty. It helped us AND also helped whoever bought it for their inspections or field use.
Terry P
2 years ago at 11:38 AM
I've never tried the cilvian version. But have looked at the camp meals sold at out doors stores. Those were proud to display their low calories and the sodium content extremely high. With military MREs high calories moderate sodium. If your just camping those will be fine, but active hikers and climbers take the calories you'll need them.
Andy
2 years ago at 5:41 PM
I used to live in Clarksville, TN (right on the doorstep of Ft. Campbell, KY, and I found a military surplus store that was selling military MRE's from the Vietnam-era..... still good. My point is that military MRE's HAVE NO shelf life. They are immortal.
JohnD.Nick
1 year ago at 10:09 AM
I dont give a damn if they are outdated, military, or civilian i just like them things the low sodium ones are a bit bland but still good & im not homeless or starving to death i just like em!!!!!
Jacob
1 year ago at 5:24 PM
Just to let you know about the newest MRE changes The military MRES does not have Toilet paper or gum anymore and Tabasco sauce is not always in the military MRE it depends on the type of food in the package and civilian MRE can also have Tabasco sauce depending on the type of food also the only noticeable difference is that the packaging is different because of DOD/Military or Homeland security/FEMA requirements as MRE for military goes through DOD/Military branches white civilian goes through Homeland Security/FEMA its still illegal to sell the military versions as per Army regulations and likely applies to Navy/Marines/Coast Guard/ Air Force as well there is a slight calorie difference 1200 to 3500 for military MRE and 1200 to 2000 for civilian MRE depending on the food contents
Phrenologist
1 year ago at 6:55 PM
Seriously I have been out on many disasters if your hungry you'll eat. They are high in calories because it is suppose to last a soldier a day. If you pig out and eat all that food at one setting and you deserve to go hungry. Stop complaining who has better MREs I have sat with people who have cried because you brought them MRE with no house.. in this country if PLENTT how dare you. There are people.. many vets.. on our streets tonight without a meal. More at Risk for COVID-19 than you priveledged people. Somebody needs to wake you up. So when this is over and you haven't used your MRE go give them to a homeless person, a run away, a street person. They won't be having this almost unbelieveable conversation
Phrenologist
1 year ago at 6:57 PM
Seriously I have been out on many disasters if your hungry you'll eat. They are high in calories because it is suppose to last a soldier a day. If you pig out and eat all that food at one setting and you deserve to go hungry. Stop complaining who has better MREs I have sat with people who have cried because you brought them MRE with no house.. in this country if PLENTT how dare you. There are people.. many vets.. on our streets tonight without a meal. More at Risk for COVID-19 than you priveledged people. Somebody needs to wake you up. So when this is over and you haven't used your MRE go give them to a homeless person, a run away, a street person. They won't be having this almost unbelieveable conversation
Adam
1 year ago at 11:27 AM
When I was a kid, I also remember being told the field MRE induces some constipation by design. Never found out if that was actually true or not, maybe someone knows?
PFC Pulcino Steven
1 year ago at 2:04 AM
I didn't know there is a civilian MRE, my unit gets them by the pallet full of the we are giving a few for each meal the stuff we don't eat are still in unopened packages and they are saved for snacks at a later date, I didn't get Tabasco sauce with our but I am always prepared as I tend to purchase a few large Tabasco bottles from the base Commissary it adds spice to the mre, my favorite is lemon pepper tuna fish I forget the number of it but trust me its great.
James DETRICK
1 year ago at 12:34 PM
When I work for DOD, I was told the self life of a MRE was 25 to 30 years. What I have read about the civilian MRE's, the self life is 10 to 15 years.
Rita Bieri
1 year ago at 1:47 PM
Ready to order. An I ha e. Upon code?
Virgil BrownIng Jr
1 year ago at 8:57 PM
I would like to give them out for the needy in our needy families in surrounding communities ..thank you , if you can give God Bless your Business. Virgil browning Jr.
James
10 months ago at 5:46 AM
Could the ready entree be placed into a pot of boiling water to heat. Most of these do not have the magnesium heater.
Ernest
4 months ago at 8:40 PM
It is a little late to reply to these posts but here goes: Military MRE's have the statement on the box saying "commercial resale is unlawful" Sounds good but it is not true. There is no law that prohibits the resale for civilians. If you are in the military you can be potentially charged under military regulations, the UCMJ, probably Article 134. If you buy them from the military commissary and commercially resell them it is possible for you to have your access curtailed. If you are a civilian and buy them through civilian sources the government has no law, rule or regulation to interfere with your sale or purchase. I read somewhere that a territory blocks the sale in their region but I can't remember who it is. That would be a local or regional rule/law and doesn't apply to the good ole USA. There are of course some exceptions. If you misrepresent what you are selling, well that's a different story. You can go the GI supply store right outside the gates of many military bases and buy them. I would hesitate to say they are stolen but they may have questionable origins. If they were in fact stolen or illegally diverted you could be charged with receiving stolen property. You probably would not be able to claim you didn't know the store just outside a base was selling stolen goods. Where do you think they got the 500 cases sitting on their showroom floor? Other than the criminal intent type of things, the government can't stop you or prosecute you for buying or selling them, either commercially or not. That being said, it is probably a lot easier to get fresh MRE's made for civilians from a responsible company. Back room deals of pilfered MRE's could get you expired or even extremely old meals and that's just not worth it. Buy from someone that guarantees their product. Just my views.