Articles From Whole Latte Love

The Evolution of the MRE

Posted: 10/20/07
Meal Ready-to-EatCuisine in the battlefield has come a long way over the years. Early on soldiers had meager provisions. Their rations usually consisted of nothing more than beef, peas and rice. Oddly enough, troops serving under General Washington received an assortment of spirits – rum, whiskey and mead in their rations. It wasn’t until the Temperance movement gained momentum in the early 1800s that alcohol was eliminated from soldiers' provisions.

As a substitution for the spirits, coffee and sugar were added to their rations. In 1832 President Andrew Jackson signed a law mandating that coffee and sugar become a component of any soldier’s ration. It must have stuck, because as the rations have evolved over the centuries, one thing has remained the same: coffee.

Now more than ever, soldiers are looking for quality coffee in their provision. The US Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center recognizes the need and is accommodating by adding better quality coffee, sugar and creamer to the packs.

In fact, Irish cream coffee and chocolate covered coffee beans are going on the menu in 2008. “We’ve got a group of young caffeine drinkers on our hands,” according to Stephen Moody, Natick’s team leader for Individual Combat Rations. “And we’re trying to meet those needs for them.”

Change is good, because according to Marine veteran James Lewis, the food was just plain nasty. “There were a few good things,” Lewis said. “But not many.” Lewis is referring to the individual meals ready-to-eat or MREs, not the food in the chow hall.

You see, MREs are specifically designed for individual eating, when the team can’t sit down and eat together. Ideally, according to Moody, soldiers should be eating as a unit. “There’s an intangible morale factor that’s involved in the group setting,” Moody has said.

So if you’re planning on sending troops a caffeinated treat this season and building morale with our Signature Coffees, make sure you get it there on time. Whole Latte Love is once again working in conjunction with the United States Postal Service (USPS) to provide friends and family serving in the military holiday shipping. Check out our Military Mail cutoff dates

A quick look at how MREs have changed over the years:

World War I soldier holding canned foodsRevolutionary War
Established by a Congressional Resolution, the food ration for soldiers includes enough food for one day. Beef, peas and rice are the staples of the kit.

Civil War
Rations changed considerably during the Civil War depending on assignment. Some canned goods, bread, salt pork, sugar, salt and coffee are included in the kit.

Spanish American War
Self-contained rations are introduced. These include canned meat, salt pork, bread, coffee, sugar and salt as the basic components of the kit.

World War I
Salted and dried meats are replaced with canned meat. However, many other items don’t change - again, bread, coffee, sugar and salt are included.

World War II
Combat Ration, commonly referred to as C-Rats, are introduced to provide a full day of food in a box for soldiers. Canned meat, bread, coffee and sugar are included in the kit.

Modern soldier eating an MRE behind a wallKorean War
Other than surviving on leftover C-Rats from World War II, soldiers saw little change.

Vietnam War
Individual meals are distributed to soldiers due to the changing conditions of combat. Canned meat, fruit, bread and dessert are all part of the kit. Accessories are also introduced, like cigarettes, matches, gum, toilet paper, coffee, cream, sugar and salt.

The First Gulf War and the War in Iraq
New meals that are ready-to-eat are launched, replacing metal cans with plastic packaging. Freeze-dehydrated meat, vegetables, crackers, fruit, coffee and sugar make up a variety of meals. Commercial snacks and candy are added to boost morale of soldiers.