In many of the videos on YouTube, you might notice that the reviewers lay their MRE contents out on a tray as if it is to be a cafeteria meal instead of a field ration. This is quite odd considering that many of these folks actually have used them in the field in the military. My goal is to discuss how you will typically find yourself using an MRE when you use it in the field like in the military. Before I write about this, I think we should start with a bit of a backstory on the history of how the MRE came to be.
Prior to and during WW1, there were emergency rations that were developed to provide some sustenance to the troops that may not have immediate access to food while on the front lines. The rations contained things that were very similar to the contents issued to the soldiers in he Civil War. Just enough food to sustain the troops until the field kitchen could take over providing chow. The C Ration was eventually started just prior to WW2, causing the emergency rations to be discontinued.
In the beginning months of WW2, the military started issuing the C Ration to troops as their all day ration out in the field when they were not able to grab a hot meal in the rear. The food found in the C Ration was among the first in the military to be enriched with vitamins and minerals that were essential to allow the soldiers body to process and use protein, fat, and carbs. The meals were not the most palatable in taste due to the canning process, need for haste, and cost savings, but they were a start.
After WW2 and the Korean war, the military started updating their rations to make them more appetizing and healthy for the troops being issued them. During the Vietnam war, the MCI(Meal Combat Individual) ration was issued to the troops. It was supposed to offer more menu options and be slightly more palatable than the previous rations. They were often found to be a bit heavy and cumbersome, but somewhat of an upgrade to the previous rations. However, if you didn't have a means of heating up your canned entrees, you would have to eat them cold with the grease and slime still thick and coagulated inside. That turned alot of the front line troops off about these rations. After 1980, the military finally started using the MRE(Meal Ready to Eat) as the main field/emergency ration.
In the almost 40 years that the MRE has been in service, it has seen many changes and expansions in menu selection. Some were better than others, but most were found to be satisfying with a wide range of favorites in entrees, snacks, desserts, candies, etc. There have been significant changes through the years to improve the ingredients in the meals to offer better taste, options, and encourage creativity in meal preparation. The one thing that has remained consistent is the flameless ration heater, which has provided a way for troops to make a hot meal without creating a flame or giving off a scent while out in the field or on combat missions.
I am not sure about the future of the MRE, but if history is any teacher, I think that the menus will continue to improve and portions may end up decreasing in order to provide greater options. However, this is not something that is concrete in patterns shown in MREs of the past. Menus change and will continue to do so. The basic principle is to keep these meals shelf stable, palatable, and cost effective. It is not fun to have to eat MREs in the field, but it is all you have when you are there. If you are truly hungry, you will not give a rats ass if the bread doesn't quite taste "the same". However, if you are on some slow, monotonous field operation and you are eating three of these things a day, you will most likely only contribute to the constant drive to make the experience of eating an MRE suck less.
Do It Rite
Alaska-Based Youtube Vlogger, Retired Marine, gun enthusiast, and passionate firearm and gear evaluator.