Tastier MRE: Chemistry gives battlefield chow a gourmet flare

May 5, 2010

The portable packages of food called the Meal, Ready to Eat (MRE) that sustain military personnel in combat or field conditions without regular food facilities are getting tastier and more sophisticated thanks to innovations in food technology. That's the focus of an article in Chemical & Engineering News, ACS' weekly newsmagazine.

C&EN Senior Editor Bethany Halford notes that the forerunners to today's MREs, known as C Rations, consisted of simple ingredients like beans and franks or ham slices in little green cans. One former soldier described the meals as "big wads of grease." By contrast, today's MRE contains a main course like ravioli, bread, moist lemon poppyseed cake for dessert, a packet of instant coffee or other powdered beverage, and a flameless heater. Instead of cans, modern field rations come in tough pouches that can withstand heavy downpours and endure helicopter air-drops.

Scientists have devoted years to developing the modern MRE, which must meet a strict set of criteria, including a prolonged shelf life ranging from months to even years. MRE packaging now contains protective layers, composed of foil and other materials, which block out oxygen, water vapor, and light to keep from spoiling. Scientists are currently testing improved packaging materials, advanced sterilization techniques, and better ways to heat foods. Who knows, of the future may even find that MRE with crab cakes in sweet pepper aioli and finish up with a lemon curd napoleon.

Explore further: Octopus and kin inspire new camouflage strategies for military applications

More information: "The Science of Feeding Soldiers", pubs.acs.org/cen/science/88/8818sci2.html

Related Stories

Food for thought: delivering the promise of food processing

January 4, 2008

Humans have transformed raw ingredients into food since prehistoric times. But scientists are still looking for new ways to make food taste better and survive longer. Presenting their findings at a recent European Science ...

Food for thought: delivering the promise of food processing

January 4, 2008

Humans have transformed raw ingredients into food since prehistoric times. But scientists are still looking for new ways to make food taste better and survive longer. Presenting their findings at a recent European Science ...

Recalls, food worries spark booming business in food safety

December 2, 2009

Recalls of ground beef, peanut butter, and other foods have done more than raise public awareness and concern about food safety. They also are quietly fueling a boom in the market for food testing equipment and fostering ...

Recommended for you

3-D printed structures that 'remember' their shapes

August 26, 2016

Engineers from MIT and Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) are using light to print three-dimensional structures that "remember" their original shapes. Even after being stretched, twisted, and bent at extreme ...

Electron microscopy reveals how vitamin A enters the cell

August 25, 2016

Using a new, lightning-fast camera paired with an electron microscope, Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) scientists have captured images of one of the smallest proteins in our cells to be "seen" with a microscope.

New method developed for producing some metals

August 25, 2016

The MIT researchers were trying to develop a new battery, but it didn't work out that way. Instead, thanks to an unexpected finding in their lab tests, what they discovered was a whole new way of producing the metal antimony—and ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.