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MREs: Are They Really as Gross as Their Reputation Says?

MREs — or Meals Ready to Eat — have developed a horrible reputation among the fighting men and women for whom they were invented.

Bestowed by service members with nicknames like “Meals Rarely Edible” and “Meals Rejected by Everyone,” these long-lasting military food rations are built to withstand a 1,250-foot parachute drop, but can they withstand their reputation as barely edible, tasteless bricks of calories — are MREs really as bad as everyone says?

Picture Credit- Captain Dave’s Army Navy Supply on Ebay

Certainly Not a Home-Cooked Meal

The reality is that no soldier, sailor, airman or Marine will ever tell you that he or she has eaten an MRE that reminded him or her of home.

Stuffed with calories, vitamins and minerals, MREs are packed in extra-tough plastic pouches and designed to have a scary-long shelf life. They can be scarfed down cold or heated with an enclosed, water-activated flameless heater. They’re consumed during short breaks or while on the move. It’s the fastest fast food in the world. It’s meant to sustain, not to replace cuisine.

If Not Good, Definitely Better

If you’re in the military right now, you’re eating MREs that are better in every way than those consumed by any service member who came before you in American history.

Combined advancements made by the Defense Department, NASA (which uses its own version of MREs) and civilian companies that cater to the worries of the zombie apocalypse crowd, have improved upon the standard MRE in every category from calorie quality to flavor to variety.

You Kids have it So Easy These Days

As recently as the first Gulf War, the unique preferences of individual soldiers weren’t even taken into consideration. It’s Tuesday. Here’s your Tuesday MRE.

The plastic pouches didn’t even have designs or graphics on them yet (which military studies show somehow make them less appealing). In recent years, extraordinary gains have been made to cater to individual tastes. Among the most recent upgrades: chocolate-filled pound cake, barbecue almonds, fruit-flavored hard candy, and trans-fat-free dairy shakes. Oh yeah, there are even vegetarian options.

How Hungry Are You?

Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Zellers of Cleveland recently told an Ohio newspaper, “When you’re eating after 18 hours a day working and working, MREs are like McDonald’s or Burger King. Sorta.”

The food inside current-day MREs is good, not great. But if you’re hungry enough that your body is craving calories, good is probably good enough.

The reality is, there’s nothing like a home-cooked meal. But in a pinch or on the go, or certainly in a survival situation like combat or camping, modern MREs provide quality calories with a surprisingly varied menu in a simple and long-lasting package.

If you have the option, order the filet, but if you’re hungry enough, an MRE will do.

Andrew Lisa is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles who writes on a variety of topics, including protecting your online reputation.

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