The military's M.R.E.--the Meal Ready to Eat, or those air-sealed packages full of gummy pastes and freeze-dried dreck that soldiers carry into the field--is getting a much-needed upgrade. But it's not in the form of better tasting dehydrated foods or better freeze-drying technology. Rather, the U.S. Army has developed the world's most cutting edge sandwich, the BBC reports, one that can be served fresh after sitting on the shelf for a full two years.
When food breaks down--when it rots--it does so as a result of various chemical and biological processes. Some of these are inherent in the ingredients themselves, others are caused by bacteria. But almost universally, these processes require water and/or oxygen to transpire. So the Army didn't need to reinvent the sandwich or its ingredients to create its long-duration lunch items. But they did need to figure out how to make a sandwich that eliminates water and oxygen from the equation.
To do this, food scientists started with ingredients like sugar (in jams or jellies for instance), salt, or honey that contain moisture but also retain it, keeping it out of contact with other ingredients. Think about a fresh tomato; on a sandwich, it will quickly cause the bread to become soggy as water from the tomato soaks into the bread. But jelly or honey on toast, though moist, doesn't impart its moisture to the bread. Using ingredients that lock their moisture inside was key to the process.
Perhaps more difficult is keeping oxygen away from the sandwich. To do so, each one is packed in an air-sealed package with an oxygen scavenger--a small packet of iron filings that pulls oxygen from the ambient air and locks it up in a layer of rust. This keeps oxygen away from things like bread, where it could feed a reaction resulting in mold and decay.
Devoid of oxygen and water, a sandwich can last a long time--two years in this case. And, if the BBC video report is to be believed, the grunts seem to like the two-year sandwich. Check out the whole report on BBC.
Congratulations to the United States Army! You have created the Hot Pocket!
Mmmmmm, good. If you eat the sandwich without drinking water it may cause instant constipation as it absorbs the water from you intestine. Though, I am sure the other Grunts will bring water or a drink as they eat the sandwich. It sounds more like a crackerwich.
Interesting that the BBC is the first to report this and not a US news corporation when it's the US Army that did this...
Sorry dude, you are a little to late, you just reinvented the twinkie but your invention probably don't last as long and take as good.
If you don't add water to this sandwich and since it is bacteria free, you can use it to plug a bullet hole or patch a shoe.
As a last ditch effort against the enemy, you can through it at him, BOING-KK!
gere did you folks learn to read? Ignorance were bliss, you'd be blistered.
Where was it said water was not present? The H2O is
still present. It's simply kept in its proper place -
not in the bread.
Never complain about that which you have not experienced.
There's always time to do it better NOW.
Why do so called "journalists" keep this notion of MREs tasting bad going and going.
have you ever eaten one??? has the author ever eaten one?
I had the wonderful experience of trying a number of different MREs that were given out in the aftermath of hurricane katrina. Of course they are not gourmet meals. but I enjoyed the ones I tried.
yes there are SOME compromises in texture and flavor, but they had some thing like the peanut butter crackers that I thought were the best I had ever tried!!!
They military makes millions of these things a year, and some solideres eat these things twice a day for for weeks if not months on end. Do you REALLY think with the trillions we sink into the military they are going to give their men a TERRIBLE meal. A happy full bellied army is an effective army! maybe they tasted like $$$$ in WW2 and Vietnam era. the TV dinner didn't even exist until the 1950s. and freeze drying we commercialized around the same time.
yummy. call me disgusting but I've always loved MREs. they taste delicious.
The people of the world only divide into two kinds, One sort with brains who hold no religion, The other with religion and no brain.
- Abu-al-Ala al-Marri
I never had a problem eating MRE´s…they are not bad. C-Rations were not so bad either. By the way, I still have a P-38 can opener hanging on my key ring and I have been out of the Army for 25 years.
Ketchup makes everything better!
I agree with inaka_rob, MREs are really good especially considering its food that's meant to last for long periods of time in harsh environments. I used to take them with me when I went camping.
Is there something wrong with you guys who are eating the MREs? I've eaten them, and they taste like ****. Maybe I'm just a crazy Californian who's used to real food, but that stuff is awful.
-Spouting a fountain of nonsense since 1995-
Wait a minute, does that then mean the 2 year old sandwich i found under the fridge wasn't........ I think i might need a doctor.
I loved the Wornick (Shelf Stable Foods) Chili MREs, they ruled! The Ham Omelets weren't bad either. Most of their MREs were comparable quality to a decent tv dinner. and the cookie brick was awesome!
Now the Stimpac/Ameriqual MREs, those were pretty much always like someone spilled a pound of salt into a garbage disposal and scraped the results into a pouch.
I've eaten almost all the current generation US rations, including MRE's, and I dont recall and 'paste' aside from cheese spreads.
That said, most all of the rations are no worse than a frozen dinner (some people hate those, so to each his own). These sandwiches are tasty as well, but they arent that new. They're a part of the 'First Strike Ration', which has been used in the field since 2007. Perhaps the sandwich has received an update recently, but I havent heard anything (I speak with the developers and do taste testing fairly often).
Most people, to be honest, have only heard that the rations are terrible. Even the tube food for the U2 pilots is pretty tasty (who knew potato hash, cheese and bacon blended into a paste would taste so good??)
No kidding. I had a sausage biscuit sitting in the bottom of my locker at work for two years and it never changed in appearance at all, and never stunk. That was my shoes.
Ugh, MRE's. I think the Army found some 2 year old sandwiches and are trying to pass them off as new.
This doesn't seem like much of an invention. Candwich.com has PB&J in a can, with a similar shelf-life for a couple bucks a piece. They previously had BBQ Chicken flavor as well, but stopped production for some reason. There are also a couple flavors of "tactical sandwiches" out there in hunting/camping sites or thinkgeek.com if you don't mind the markup, which come in a couple flavors, and again a similar shelf life.
I don't understand what the writer was saying about dehydrated MREs... In fact dehydrated would be decidedly NOT "ready-to-eat", and I can't think of anything besides the drink mix and rock-hard cracker that could be considered "dehydrated".
As for taste, MREs are tolerable. They'll never be gourmet, as the large quantiities of preservatives have a negative effect on the flavor of any food, so I'm completely confused as to how people would consider them either great tasting, or completely awful.
I have always wondered why MREs are even necessary. Normal, store-bought canned food has a considerably longer shelf-life, tastes far better, and is considerably cheaper than MREs. A can of Kroger hot chili, for example, costs all of $1 and has 600 calories, more than enough. It would seem mass market food has far surpassed MREs long ago, and the military should only just be assembling C-ration style kits out of off-the-shelf consumer goods.
+1 on the Chili .... unless you are in a tank or a submarine!
If the consumer is a soldier or has no time to cook, then yes. However, if the consumer has time to cook, try these:
Dried beans: navy beans one part, and three parts water, a pinch of salt, simmer for two to three hours (yes!) are delicious. A little oil or butter is nice.
Rice: brown rice one part, water two parts. Simmer for one hour. Salt, oil or butter to taste. Maybe pepper, chili or - what is that yellow stuff - anyway nice.
Barley: see rice.
Rice and beans contain together a "complete" protein, and you could really live off of them for years, with a little added greens or vegies and such.
Oh and the main point - rice beans and barley keep almost for ever if kept dry. I have about six months stocked up. You never know.