I get so many questions every day from those new to the hobby. I decided to write a beginners guide to MREs and combat rations. There are a bewildering variety of MREs and combat rations around the world. That is one aspect that makes them so interesting
What is a ration? What is an MRE? What's the difference?
MRE stands for " meal ready to eat". MREs can be eaten without any preparation, hot or cold.
Food issued to a soldier in a ration pack can include MREs (meals ready to eat), meals that require preparation (like freeze dried, tinned or canned food), or any combination of ready to eat items with items that require preparation of some sort.
Why International Rations? Why MREs?
1.) They are shelf stable: Shelf life ranges from 2 to 10+ years depending on the type. You can store them anywhere and forget about them until needed.
2.) They are calorie dense: Calories for a single-meal MRE are at least 1,200 calories for 1.3 lbs. 24 hour ration packs can exceed 5,500 calories in less than 5 lbs.
3.) They are convenient: Everything needed for a soldier is provided in one handy package, usually airtight and waterproof.
4.) They are survival kits: Ration packs often come with other necessities besides food items including stoves, fuel, water purification, matches, toilet paper, vitamins, and hygiene items like toothbrushes and cleansing wipes.
5.) The food is amazing: Contrary to popular belief, the quality of food in international MREs and ration packs is quite good, if a tad bit bland. The food regulations of the European Union/NATO are MUCH more strict than USA FDA regulations. Foreign military food is minimally processed and has very little preservatives, food coloring or additives. French military ration menus include such items as ostrich, wild boar, venison and veal. Spanish menus include squid, octopus and lamb. This is NATURAL food, and it is designed so that the soldier will like it, and thus eat it. National dishes are featured prominently like curry (UK), Polish sausage (Poland), and kasha (Russia).
6.) They are nutritious: Combat rations are engineered for extreme nutrition. Soldiers burn thousands of calories. MREs and rations contain a perfect balance of protein, fat, carbohydrates, electrolytes and short term performance enhancements like chocolate and caffeine.
7.) They are a great value: Combat rations may seem costly. However, when you consider that taking your family to dinner at a restraunt is likely to run you at least $30-50 for a single meal. One 24 hour ration pack that will feed your entire family for one meal or possibly all day costs the same price, is shelf stable, convenient, nutritious, portable, etc...