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

  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.

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8 years ago
10 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.
8 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 B.
8 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
4 years 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.
8 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 Tabasco 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.
8 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
5 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.
5 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
5 years ago at 11:38 AM
I've never tried the civilian 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.
5 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.
4 years 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. There are people.. many vets.. on our streets tonight without a meal. More at Risk for COVID-19 than you 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 unbelievable conversation
PFC Pulcino Steven
4 years 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 D.
4 years 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.
Virgil Browning Jr
4 years 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.
4 years 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.
2 years ago at 6:09 PM
You ABSOLUTELY can buy military MREs. I've ordered Case A/B multiple times and as a prior solider that did a couple deployments, I can tell you that if it's "counterfeit", they did SUCH a good job that if there is 0 difference between them and "the real deal", and I've gotten these off Amazon, not some shady craigslist jaunt. Secondly, I have ALSO bought meals from the ready store and they are definitely "worse" in the sense that while the entrée is different, all the ancillary stuff is identical with every meal. raisins for the snack, crackers for the carb, peanut butter for the spread. Every. Single. Meal. So boring. Military MREs have a variety of snacks, a few different carb options, and several different spreads. Also the packaging is both more durable and more aesthetically pleasing. I'll stick with my "counterfeit" MREs. Thanks