MREs are the main operational food ration for the United States Armed Forces. It originated from the c-rations and k-rations from World War II, and later developed into MCI (Meal, Combat, Individual) rations used in Korea and Vietnam. In 1980 the MRE was developed and is still the U.S. Army's primary ration.

Generally, a MRE contains the following items:

  • Entree - the main course, such as spaghetti or beef stew
  • Side dish - rice, corn, fruit, or mashed potatoes, etc.
  • Cracker or bread
  • Spread - peanut butter, jelly, or cheese spread
  • Dessert - cookies or pound cakes
  • Candy - M&Ms, Skittles, or Tootsie Rolls
  • Beverages - Gatorade-like mixes, cocoa, dairy shakes, coffee, tea
  • Hot sauce or seasoning - in some MREs
  • Flameless Ration Heater - to heat the entree
  • Accessories - spoon, matches, creamer, sugar, salt, chewing gum, toilet paper, etc.

Each MRE provides an average of 1,250 calories (13 percent protein, 36 percent fat, and 51 percent carbohydrates) and one-third of the Military Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamins and minerals. A full day's worth of meals would consist of three MREs.

How To Eat A MRE

A MRE is truly a "Meal Ready to Eat", although it tastes much better when heated with the supplied ration heater and powdered drinks are mixed with water. The contents—heated and cold—can be eaten out of the wrappers with the plastic utensils provided.

Instructions that come with each meal tell the Soldier how to pour water into each heater, and insert the packet of food. When the food has finished cooking, each meal should be carefully opened, and then eaten with a fork or spoon--one of which is usually provided in the MRE. The meals are designed to be cooked and eaten anywhere, at any time. There is no need to find a table or a kitchen in which to set up.

Examples of a typical MRE are:

  • Chili w/Beans
    Mexican Style Corn
    Dairy shake
    Red Pepper
    Flameless Heater
    Hot Beverage Bag

  • Veggie Burger in BBQ Sauce
    Dried Fruit
    Chocolate Banana Muffin Top
    Wheat Snack Bread
    Hot Sauce
    Lemon Tea
    Flameless Heater
    Hot Beverage Bag
  • Chicken Fajita Tortilla
    Chocolate Pudding
    Baked Snack Cracker, cheese
    Cheese Spread
    Coffee, Irish Cream
    Seasoning Blend
    Flameless Heater
    Hot Beverage Bag

did you know?

  • Soldiers can choose from up to 24 entrees, and more than an additional 150 items in the MRE chain.
  • MREs must be capable of withstanding parachute drops from 1,250 feet, and non-parachute drops of 100 feet.
  • The packaging is required to maintain a minimum shelf life of three and a half years at 80 degrees F or nine months at 100 degrees F.
  • Spread - peanut butter, jelly, or cheese spread
  • In 2006, "Beverage Bags" were introduced to the MRE, as service members began to depend more on CamelBaks or other hydration bladders than canteens, which denied them the use of the metal canteen cups for mixing powdered beverages. In addition to having measuring marks to indicate levels of liquid for precise measurement, they can be sealed and placed inside the flameless heater.
  • Founded in 1987, AmeriQual, headquartered in Evansville, In., is the largest provider of Meals, Ready-to-Eat to the U.S. military.