With more than two dozen menus and specialty food items, the rations provided to U.S. soldiers have gone gourmet.
Kosher and Vegetarian Meals
The stereotype about terrible Army food no longer seems to apply as the U.S. military has turned its focus in recent years to improving the variety and quality of rations provided to soldiers on battlefields around the world. U.S. soldiers today can request Kosher and vegetarian rations. It’s a long way from the Civil War, when soldiers lived for months at a time on a mixture of beef, peas and rice.
Known as a "Meal Ready to Eat," or MRE, rations today provide soldiers with a pre-cooked meal that gives them about 1,200 calories. The meals are packed in plastic-foil pouches and cardboard boxes. Since 1981, available rations have grown to include a total of 24 menus from 12 menus originally. Each meal bag contains a main course, eight crackers, cheese spread or peanut butter, cake or cookies, as well as coffee and tea complete with a creamer and sugar. Each MRE ration also comes with a chemical heater.
First Strike Ration
Soldiers on the move and in heavy combat rely on a "First Strike Ration" to keep them fed and energized. Each First Strike Ration provides soldiers with about 3,000 calories and is meant to replenish energy quickly. Contents typically include a tuna fish or chicken sandwich, high energy drink mix, high energy cereal bars, beef jerky, applesauce, and caffeinated gum.
Although they are used in heavy combat scenarios, even the First Strike Rations offer some fancy menu items, including a cinnamon and brown sugar pastry, lemon pound cake, and a French Toast pocket sandwich. The U.S. MRE rations were updated in 2006 to add beverage bags that include high calorie dairy shakes.