Throughout our nation’s history, our troops have had many different kinds of meals. From the large bulky rations during the civil war to the new Meals Ready to Eat (MRE), the food has evolved.
To honor our veterans, we take a look back at the foods that our troops have eaten to keep themselves ready to protect our freedom.
Food and rations during the Civil War varied by location, quality and quantity. A typical ration would include:
• 20 oz. of Salted Pork or Beef
• 12 oz of Hardtack (bread)
• 1 oz. of a compressed cube of mixed vegetables
Every 100 rations a soldier would receive:
• 8 qts of Beans or Peas
• 10 lbs of Rice
• 10 lbs of Coffee Beans
• 10 lbs of Sugar
• 2 qts of Salt
• 1 gallon of Vinegar
During World War I, food was a precious resource and the government wanted to make sure that no food was wasted. The Army’s Division of Food and Nutrition of the Medical Department conducted a survey showing that they were actually giving too much food to troops. They subsequently created smaller ration sizes that were easier to pack around and more efficient for the troops.
Between 1941 and 1946, the military conducted more than 30 surveys to assess military health and nutrition. The military introduced different rations including K-rations (breakfast), D-rations (chocolate) and C-rations (lunches and dinners). These meals were pre-cooked and were easy to eat on the go. However, they were also bulky and loud.
The military introduced the MCI - Military Combat Individual during the 1950s. Despite the new name - they were still popularly referred to as C-rations because they resembled them in most respects. They introduced a wider variety of items and encouraged a better daily nutrition. The military eventually phased them out for the MRE.
MREs - Meals Ready to Eat - replaced the C ration in order to create a lightweight, easily transportable meal. Instead of the bulky cans, they come in metalized bags and are ready to eat in a moments notice - no heating required.
The Invention of MRE
MREs continue to be the meal that fills our troop’s bellies but they’ve improved. There has been advancements in nutrition and taste. The suppliers have also created MRE meals that are more friendly to campers and hikers called HeaterMeals. These heater meals have improved taste and larger portion sizes.
Some of the early MRE main courses were not very palatable, earning them the nicknames "Mr. E" (mystery), "Meals Rejected by Everyone", "Meals, Rarely Edible", "Meals Rejected by the Enemy", "Morsels, Regurgitated, Eviscerated", "Meal, Ready to Excrete", "Materials Resembling Edibles", and even "Meals Rejected by Ethiopians". Some meals got their own nicknames. For example, the frankfurters, which came sealed in pouches of four, were referred to as "the four fingers of death".
Although quality has improved over the years, many of the nicknames have stuck. MREs were often called "Three Lies for the Price of One" - it's not a Meal, it's not Ready and you can't Eat it.
Their low dietary fiber content could cause constipation in some so they were also known as "Meals Refusing to Exit", "Meals Refusing to Excrete",or "Massive Rectal Expulsions". While the myth that the gum found in MREs contains a laxative is false, the crackers in the ration pack do contain a higher than normal vegetable content to facilitate egestion. In December 2006 comedian Al Franken (on his 8th USO tour at the time) joked to troops in Iraq that he'd had his fifth MRE so far and "none of them had an exit strategy".
My how far we've come! The MRE's of today are some of the most tasty and nutritionally balanced meals you can eat. The number of entrées expanded to 16 by 1996 (including vegetarian options), 20 entrées by 1997 and 24 entrées by 1998. Today, service members can choose from up to 24 entrées, and more than 150 additional items.
When the free market got involved with MRE's the quality and taste really jumped up to par. The MRE's we sell at Ready Store are not only healthy, lightweight, and nutrional, but they also taste great! They make your body feel great too!