The awful truth about MRE (Meal Ready to Eat) rations or why field kitchens are essential in the military

“Lean the hot pack against a rock or something”

Creating Alpha video about MREs

MREs are not all what they are cracked up to be. It must be galling for US soldiers particularly when they realize that the Taliban is eating mutton curry and biriyani.

The Indian Army units when they are deployed have field kitchens. Although there have been complaints about corruption in supply management, the availability of the equivalent of a home-cooked meal thre times a day has been very satisfactory to our soldiers.

In the US, private business convinced the Department of Defense that the military was in the business of fighting wars and military men should not be engaged in peeling potatoes. It seems like a straightforward idea but is quite disingenuous. Today, private military contractors do not just do catering activities but also perform a lot of logistical and even military operations. The costs of engaging private contractors have become astronomical. A worker of a private contractor is paid several times what the US military would have to pay one of its own soldiers doing the same work.

Apart from meals catered by private contractors, US soldiers also consume a lot of canned food. With the use of plastic packaging, tin cans have been eliminated. Today, MRE meals are cooked like ordinary food, packaged in hermetically sealed plastic bags and then boiled in hot water to kill microbes.

The boiling makes the food safe but it has the disadvantage of destroying texture of the food. Some MRE food items are dried so much (as water is a great substrate for microbes) that it absorbs water from the body when consumed. This clogs up the intestines. Some other MRE articles have the opposite effect.

There are many videos online of people trying out MREs. These videos are civilians. What about military people who have to eat it day after day, particularly when deployed in hostile conditions? Here is one:

I thought this video was a joke but it is real. The hot pack does indeed say it should be leaned against a rock or something. It is a hilarious but sad video.

The closest that most people have come to an MRE is Maggi noodles. I have always found it tasteless but there are many people who are addicted to it. I also found that Singapore banned it because they found that petroleum wax was being used by top noodle brands as one of the additives, probably as a hydrophobic agent.

Indian military labs do research on food too and their food technologies have been transferred to several civilian companies. Among them, MTR has several good MRE items. Maybe they should pitch their products to the US military. As it is now majority owned by Western PE groups, this should not be a problem. The worst Indian MRE would beat the best US MRE because of all the spices we use.

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