MREs are the new hipster hotness

| June 12, 2021

Trump and Kanye on the MRE?

According to the New York Times, who clearly don’t understand military humor, MREs are the latest fad for civilians. The same people that protest the military-industrial complex, think the military is only for those too stupid to go to college for a really useful degree like gender studies, and deface American monuments are now enamored with the field expedient meal we all love and hate.

From the NYT;

Unloved by Generations of Soldiers, the M.R.E. Finds a Fan Base

The rations often derided as ‘Meals, Rarely Edible’ have gotten (somewhat) better and become objects of fascination for millions of civilians.

Kathleen Ehl had always thought of her business as a niche affair — an online store called North Georgia Outdoors Supply that she and her husband run out of their home in Gainesville, selling Meals, Ready-to-Eat.

M.R.E.s, as they are widely known, are thick pouches of shelf-stable rations created for the United States military. They’re not particularly fancy or appetizing, and they’re technically not allowed to be sold commercially if they are made under a government contract, as most are. Ms. Ehl and her husband, Oliver Walker, scour online auctions and salvage stores for the meals, and sell most of them to collectors and survivalists.

But last February, when pandemic-induced panic buying kicked into high gear, their orders jumped from 100 a week to 100 a day. “There were some nights my husband and I packed M.R.E.s from after the kids went to bed to 2 in the morning,” said Ms. Ehl, 37.

Early 2020 was a boom time for M.R.E. distributors across the country, from the major military suppliers to Army surplus stores. Yet today, as purchases of other pandemic fixations have flagged, the civilian fascination with the meals has persisted — driven by caution (stocking up for the next potential pandemic or natural disaster) and curiosity.

Though sales figures for M.R.E.s are hard to come by, given the questionable legality of some sales, the internet audience that discusses and taste-tests the rations has grown to millions. People who never thought they’d own an M.R.E. now keep them in their basement.

Sylvia Marie, 26, ordered a few, including a Mexican-style chicken stew and a vegetarian taco pasta, shortly into the lockdown, while staying at her relatives’ home in South Windsor, Conn. She was looking for foods that were new to her and didn’t require a great effort to make.

On the website where she placed her order, “a lot of the reviews were people who had been talking about how they had bought these to stock their bomb shelters,” said Ms. Marie, a food-policy researcher at Tufts University. “I don’t think I would normally associate myself with that population.”

No one is more intrigued or puzzled by the phenomenon than the scientists and engineers who research and develop the meals at the Department of Defense Combat Feeding Division. At the division’s headquarters in Natick, Mass., the team spends years perfecting every detail of an M.R.E. before it is sent off to manufacturers: Is this beef ravioli as nutritious as possible, and shelf stable for up to three years? Can it survive a drop from a helicopter, or blistering desert temperatures?

Can it create a hard, brick-sized and shaped lump of human fecal matter in your bowel that causes an aneurysm when you try to shit it out? Can we put that slice of “bread” that’s like eating a piece of dried out C4 in every bag? Can meals be combinations of foods that leave you scratching your head? Like the Salisbury steak meal that came with a big hunk of beef jerky. They at the DOD Combat Feeding Division hope you like a beef side dish for your beef.

“Unloved”? Fake news. Depending on the field kitchen, an MRE can be preferable. Hell, I’ve been to some DFAC/Chow Halls that legit couldn’t out cook an MRE.

“Derided”? Hey now, we in the military service deride everything, thank you very much. If we ain’t bitching, then there’s something wrong. MREs aren’t bad, in fact they are kind of fun, for like two or three days. I can see why these never-served folks find them novel and entertaining. I still miss the jalapeno cheese on a cracker. I also will always have fond memories of the spaghetti MRE.

Category: "Truth or fiction?", Covidiot

Comments (62)

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  1. NHSparky says:

    And here I always called them Meals Rejected by Ethiopians.

    Guess I’m showing my age.

    But to be fair (to be faiiii–uh!) I keep a couple in the truck as part of my kit, especially winter stuck in the snow kit, including flares, kitty litter, extra blanket, and mini shovel.

  2. Dammigotold says:

    10000% better than C rats
    Oh the stories we could tell, of feathers in “chicken “ cans and flys not landing……
    Lo and behold long after I left I was on a wildfire and was given my first MRE
    did they get old after a while, yes
    Did I have to drink at least 1 qt of water, absolutely
    Still better than C’s

    • Anonymous says:

      Definitely.

    • Poetrooper says:

      Flies not landing????

      The way you could always spot a FNG was if he tried to blow the flies and gnats off his C’s before he put a spoonful in his mouth…

      🤮🤮🤮

  3. Wireman611 says:

    Dinty Moore and Chili for me

  4. Sapper3307 says:

    I still got my eight cases from the 18 days to break the curve giveaway.

  5. President Elect Toxic Deplorable Racist SAH Neanderthal B Woodman Domestic Violent Extremist SuperStraight says:

    Hipsters want MREs? I have several cases of the older MREs in the dark brown bags. Make me an offer.

  6. The Other Whitey says:

    We get issued MREs for fireline use. They are carried on the engine as a last-resort food option for when we are stuck somewhere where we otherwise can’t eat (a rare occurrence, but not unheard of by any means). I ate a couple my first season before learning my lesson. I haven’t touched another in the two decades since then, and I have on occasion gone multiple days without eating during major campaign fires despite there being a full box of the damn things under the back seat. Crapping out that jagged lump of granite is just not worth it. I’ve occasionally had a new guy on my engine who wants to try one; I always offer them a “wouldn’t do that if I was you!”

    The thought of these anqueefers suffering through an MRE deuce warms the very cockles of me Black Irish heart, and it is in no way surprising that they willingly go back for more.

    • rgr769 says:

      I have never eaten an MRE, thankfully, from what I have read and heard. Why the Army did not continue to purchase the LRRP rations we had in the Viet of the Nam is beyond me. Almost everyone of those meals were well seasoned and pleasant to eat, for the most part. They were made by Oregon Freeze Dried Foods. Many of the same meals are still made and sold to backpackers/campers today. The LRRP rations were considerably more palatable than many of the C-rat meals I ate constantly for over six months. The only drawback is that they had to be re-hydrated, which was accomplished best with hot water (cold would work, but it took longer).

      • Mason says:

        Oregon Freeze Dried Foods makes Mountain Home camp rations. They make some real good eats. Definitely better than an MRE.

      • Hate_me says:

        MREs have changed over the years.

        The ones with the dehydrated fruit bars and oatmeal cookie bars (dark brown bag) weren’t that bad and people literally fought for the frankfurters option (it came with M&Ms).

        The more recent ones, with all their vegetarian options and multicultural designs, all taste like ass.

        I bought my food from the local economy, like any civilized man. Say what you will about Iraq, but they make good food – especially the Kurds.

        • MarineDad61 says:

          Hate_me,
          I ate good in the desert in 1991,
          mostly because I could eat Chicken A La King all day,
          and get them for little trade, or gifted for no trade at all.
          Also, the original Cheese Spread.
          🙂

          • Eric (the OC Tanker) says:

            Ham slices, Audi Murphy bar, lemon/lime beverage powder. mix and match. The much detested Chicken Elvis (because he was the king) dehydrated pork patty. All from the first generation of the MRE. there were times I pined for the ‘good’ old MCI. Thank the tanker god/designer-engineer that placed stowage space for 14 days of pogie bait in the banana boxes and oddment tray.

      • timactual says:

        Mmmmm. LRRP rations! Difficult to come by for the regular folks, but definitely tasty. My only complaint was that they were too light; not enough substance (grease). C rats were obviously a better match for my malformed taste buds.

        C rats were also much easier to heat since they came with their own heating systems.
        For the young’uns;
        1) Punch hole in can for steam to escape (it will explode!), return can to convenient cardboard package, ignite said cardboard, enjoy!
        2) Use “Church Key” to make air holes in top and bottom of empty can, place small(!) lump of C4 in bottom of can, ignite, place food/beverage can on top until hot, enjoy.
        3) Ignite peanut oil in peanut butter can (or cheese?), hold food/beverage can over flame, enjoy.
        4) Place unopened(!) C-rat can in exhaust pipe of M113 (other vehicles may also work), rev engine, remove heated ration and enjoy.

        Note: Method 4 may be unsuitable for use in some tactical situations, particularly at night, and may draw unwelcome attention from hostile forces (NCOs and officers).

      • USMC Steve says:

        Those have been brought back and improved some RGR. They come in a white bag though. Only four menus, but they are actually pretty tasty if you have the 15 mikes and hot enough water to create them.

  7. Poetrooper says:

    Did ol’ Poe read that shelf-life requirement correctly: three years? Hell, we had C-Rations in Vietnam in 1965-66 that were packed twenty years before, during WWII.

    Miz Poe and I keep a backup supply of foodstuffs, mostly canned goods, to tide us over should we encounter more panic-buying-induced shortage situations such as have occurred in recent years.

    I’ve done some internet research on the shelf-life of various items and it appears most canned goods are actually safe far beyond their use-by dates. The exceptions are highly acidic vegetables like canned tomatoes. The use-by dates are nothing more than the manufacturers’ best estimates as too how long their products retain full flavor.

    And should we lose the power grid, we have multiple hand can openers, even a supply of P-38’s in case those cheesy, Chinese, manual openers break after a few uses as they are inclined to do.

    Since both Poe’s are too old to even think about bugging out on foot, weight of canned goods is not an issue. So, frankly, ol’ Poe can’t see a need for MRE’s.

    Oh, and KoB will be no doubt pleased to hear that our canned goods stash includes several cases of frequently rotated Yuenglings, a diet essential in the Poe household.😛😛😛

    • rgr769 says:

      IIRC, I once opened some C-rats that were dated around 1960.

    • MarineDad61 says:

      Poetrooper…..
      YES. It’s 3 years for ALL MREs.
      This is standard since the 90s, hasn’t changed.
      The CASE is marked, the MREs themselves are NOT.

      Only 2 years ago, I got a windfall case of 12,
      as a gift, at 3 years 3 months.
      Only spoils was spicy cheese, which I don’t eat anyway.
      Everything else was fine.
      National Guard units DO dispose of them.
      Not always in the dumpster.
      More than a few end up at the local *Military Surplus.
      Or that company online selling OLD MREs.
      Ugh.

    • MarineDad61 says:

      Also….
      There are GENERATIONS of MREs, documented online.
      They can be ballpark dated,
      by the outer appearance.
      Example – Generation 1 Dark Brown, late 80s.
      With dehydrated pork (or beef) patty as a meal.
      IMHO do NOT eat old old generation MREs.

    • KoB says:

      “…a diet essential in the Poe household”. My Main Man Poetrooper! Beer is proof that God Loves us and wants us to be happy! And yeah, Brother, we wuz still snacking on them WWII C Rats in the early 70’s. Used to be a contest as to who had the oldest production date. That’s why I survived on the peaches, fruit cocktail, pound cake, p’nut butter, and crackers.

      You are right as rain, too, on the shelf life of commercial canned and/or dried foods too. And, nope, I ain’t bugging out on foot, or vehicle, either. I’m willing to die defending my hill, are they willing to die trying to take it? Got a pretty good assortment of both that I keep rotated out. I always check the dates when I shop and will root around on the shelf to make sure I get the longest sell by date. That struggle can get real cause so many stock clerks don’t rotate like they’re supposed to. Keep the gas for my generator rotated out too. No worries about the Yuenglings going bad, those stocks are rotated right regularly, bottles, not cans. Cans may keep longer but the empty bottles and old rags may come in handy some day, just saying.

      “…questionable legality of some sales.” Surely you jest? No Supply point EVAH got rid of marketable “Surplus to the needs…” material.

      Ms. Marie, you might want to think about getting to associate with the type of population that have a stocked bomb shelter. Not gonna be a whole lot of demand for the skilz of a food-policy researcher when the balloon goes up and this sh%t gets realz. What ya got to trade, lub me long time, go boom boom? Guess what girl friend, that ain’t gonna be worth a whole lot and if somebody with a well stocked bomb shelter wants that from you, they could just take it.

      “…headquarters in Natick, Mass”. Well no damn wonder them things ain’t fit to eat. Who daHell EVAH went to Mass. for the fine dining? Put some South in yore Mouth, Honey Child. I knew it had to be some kind of yanky plot. They need them a Paula Deen or a Justin Wilson on staff. Instead of chicken ala king, make some chicken n dumplin’s. Cornbread dressing with real pork loin. And use decent cuts of beef beast. And with the supply chain as efficient as it is, who needs an expiration date of 3 years from now? The way we handled field mess and Chow Hall’s quality is Command ate there too. Kept the mess sergeant on his toes. Wonder if that still happens?

      As bad as Combat Rations are today, it still beats rancid salt pork and weevil filled hard tack.

      • Poetrooper says:

        “…I survived on the peaches…”

        Gun Bunny, that brought back a memory I’d long forgotten. In a letter home in 1966, I mentioned that the best thing in C-Rations was canned peach slices in heavy syrup.

        Several weeks later when we were back in the rear area base camp at Tuy Hoa, I was told at mail call to pick up a package in the mail tent.

        I quickly learned why they hadn’t delivered it–the sumbitch was heavy–a case of 24 number two an’ a half cans of Del Monte sliced peaches my Dad had shipped.

        Young Poe was the most popular NCO on battalion staff until those wonderful peaches finally ran out…😁😁😁

        • KoB says:

          Care packages from home, worth literally worth their weight in gold! BZ on dear old Dad for keying in on your comment. I was lucky in that my older Sister’s husband was a former Marine and he had told her when I shipped out, “Send him food…of anysort. He’ll be the most popular or hated Soldier in the unit. Popular with the ones he shares with, hated by the ones he don’t.” Between her and Mama’s Church Group we did alright. When my Boy was in the Storm, his Mama wanted to send him wet wipes, baby powder, books, and such, per their recommendations “Why send food stuffs, they feed them, don’t they?” heh heh I sent him ’bout anything edible but chocolates. There were some happy, well fed troopers in 3/15 Inf.

          • Poetrooper says:

            Poe’s older sister kept him supplied with baby Tootsie Rolls: easy to carry lots of ’em, quick energy source and didn’t melt in the heat.

    • The Stranger says:

      As I will say from now on…A Yuengling in each hand is a balanced diet!

  8. OlafTheTanker says:

    I’ve still got my last Menu VII MRE I got in 1992 stashed away somewhere just in case.

    • MarineDad61 says:

      Olaf,
      Cool museum collector piece.
      See the other comments, you’ll never want to eat it.
      Or even open it.

    • Claw says:

      Menu VII MRE’s were packaged/shipped out in 1987, so it’ll be celebrating it’s 35th birthday next year./s

  9. Graybeard says:

    We finally finished up the MREs from Hurricane Rita or Ike.
    Our church had sheltered a lot of evacuees and had received cases of MREs to give them. We had 2-3 cases left over & donated to our Venturing Crew.

    Not too bad for emergency rations.

  10. A Proud Infidel®™ says:

    Not only do you literally shit bricks after eating them, you blow enough gas out of your ass to keep three blast furnaces going as well!

  11. MarineDad61 says:

    Shhhh,
    Don’t tell the hipsters about expiration dates.
    (*The local military surplus store doesn’t.)
    Let them experience the cheese surprise.
    lolol

  12. since moving to florida in 2007, i bought mre’s a few times for hurricane season. the boxes had the inspection date stamped in the julien calender so you needed the sheet you could get online to unscramble the dates. this is great for 18 year olds since the sodium and cholestoral count are high but not for us older persons and i have seen mre’s sold with lower sodium but can’t remember if they were mil issue. we had c-rats onboard the okie 3 plus canned horsemeat and spam which had 1940’s dates on them. when we were in the philly yards in dry dock for a refit before she left for san diego and southeast asia, we used to cumshore spam and tins of coffee to the yard birds to get things that had to go through paperwork request. yard birds would burn off the top of an i beam laying on the deck and after all the crap was burned off of the top, they would grill slices of spam on top of the beam with their oxi acetiline torches. we also had c-rats while i was in the arng back in 75-77. bought a coleman bottled gas stove to use if we lose power for a few days. i bought a civilian version of mre’s from a vendor once when i was at the national hurricane conference up in orlando possibly in 2012. anyone have an opinion on the c-rat ham and lima beans

    • timactual says:

      “anyone have an opinion on the c-rat ham and lima beans”

      Mmmmmmmm. I still like them. I think they replaced them with spaghetti & “grease” sauce, which I also liked.

      One of the good things about “junk food” like Ham & MFs, in addition to the delectable flavour & consistency, is that the exchange rate is very favourable.

  13. Milo Mindbender says:

    I have eaten 15 year old MRE’s with no noticeable side effects, but I also eat gas station sushi, and taco bell with no issues.
    I loved the beef and gravy or turkey and gravy from the late 80’s. Never liked any of the egg based meals, corned beef hash was a winner in my book. Several of the humanitarian style were tasty as well. Tabasco sauce, garlic and onion powder, and other seasonings help make up for the lack of taste on some meals, others there is no improving.

  14. Carlton says:

    So now “hip” people have “discovered” MRE’s. This reminds me of a Mike Royko column from decades ago about how “hip” people of that time had “discovered” bowling. As if no one had ever bowled before the “cool” people started doing it.

  15. DocV says:

    I had a can of C-rat fruitcake I used as a paperweight for years. It went missing on my last move…I miss it.😁

    • USMC Steve says:

      It is probably just as well…if you ever tried to open it up, it would have sucked all the oxygen in the room up.

  16. A Proud Infidel®™ says:

    LET THE hipsters eat the early 90’s MRE Omelet with Ham, something we had fistfight’s over after which the loser had to eat as well as the Vegetarian Omelet which is better off used as an asphalt filler or driveway patch!

  17. Roh-Dog says:

    Why does it have to be my freaking neighbor?!
    She coulda come over, I have MREs from a decade ago.
    Have at ‘em, hoss!
    I liked MREs and didn’t really have any them intestinal problems you folks seem to be on about. Two major gripes about the MRE:
    1) why the F*** would you get rid of tabasco sauce?
    2) I swear if they brought back country captain chicken for a limited run, I’d spend a couple stacks of cash on getting my hands on as many as I could!

    • 11B-Mailclerk says:

      Some folks can digest anvils.

      Some folks start an MRE with half a canteen of water and finish it off for dessert.

      “Both”

      I always had a few small bottles of spices not found ready-to-steal in the DFAC. That helped with variety.

  18. The Dead Man says:

    I mean I appreciate Steve1989MREInfo almost dying trying to eat Chinese rations as much as the next grave shifter stuck in Utah, but I always watched his videos like I expected a Live Leak logo to appear, not like I should buy them for home use.

    I do miss the Tobasco bottles in them. When we went camping with the boyscouts and got handed those things, I used to drink them for cash.

  19. 26Limabeans says:

    The crackers and cheese with a fleck of pimento
    was my goal in the “trading” that ensued each
    time we opened a case of C-rats and passed them out.
    And you could use that “lump” of solidified dough they
    called bread for a baseball.

    BUT..yesterday my Moose hunting partner was drawn in the
    lottery for a permit this year. Late october Bull.
    We will be eating Moose for a least a year.
    Moose meat is high quality protein, low fat and delicious.

    • A Proud Infidel®™ says:

      Every time I look at a Moose whether it be a picture, a live one in a Zoo or in a video, I wonder what they taste like!

    • timactual says:

      I always did well in the “great game” due to my fondness for Ham & MFs and my lack of fondness for peaches, pound cake, and a couple of other popular items.

      The bread was indeed an insult to the baker’s art. although I have blanked out most of my bad memories I think there is something about putting the bread in a large (B3?) can with the spiced beef(?) and letting it “marinate” for awhile to tenderize it a bit.

      As for the moose, how do you get it home? How do you even get it to a road?

      • 26Limabeans says:

        “How do you even get it to a road?”

        There is always a logging road nearby and the local
        loggers are happy to make a few dollars with their
        skidders. Or you could just wait for the Moose to
        step into the road.
        Actually, most hunters ride the logging roads.
        Once field dressed, the carcas is taken to a processor of
        which there are many during hunting season.
        My friend owns a butcher shop and is also a Guide so
        we have this “in the bag” so to speak.

        The worst scenario is the Moose is only wounded and heads down
        into a bog where no machine can go. Terrible situation but if
        you shot it you have to recover it no matter the cost.
        That’s the rules.

        I mispoke. My partner drew a Cow, not a Bull. Even better because
        a head shot would be in order which makes it easier.

  20. Messkit says:

    For me, the best was the Chow Mein from the brown bags. Second place, was the omelet with sausage, mixed with Tabasco and the jalapeno cheese.

    But that was a long time ago, when adults decided on the menu’s.

    Now, it’s all pasta, sad excuses for pizza, tacos, burritos, and something they call a “hamburger”…which is far from what you or I call hamburgers.

    I’m not even going to mention the morons that decided vegan meals were an intelligent combat option.

    • A Proud Infidel®™ says:

      “I’m not even going to mention the morons that decided vegan meals were an intelligent combat option.”

      I wish my ex-Wife upon the inventors of those for all of Eternity.

    • timactual says:

      VEGAN!?!

      Gawd, I hope they have dyed the toilet paper or they might think it’s a white flag.

  21. Hatchet says:

    And in case anyone’s wondering – early-days British and Canadians MRE’s were nothing to write home about either..
    The references of “hard, brick-sized and shaped lump of human fecal matter in your bowel that causes an aneurysm when you try to shit it out” and “Can we put that slice of “bread” that’s like eating a piece of dried out C4 in every bag” definitely apply. As Crocodile Dundee famously stated “Tastes like shit but you can live on it”. *shudder*

  22. Berliner says:

    I still have a Pork Patty MRE meal. This was MRE Menu #1 from 1981-1987. I’m not starving yet so this will stay on the shelf in the garage.

  23. Muastang Major says:

    Mason- Good story into.

  24. ChipNASA says:

    OK, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say, I have about 10 of the Tailored Operational Training Meals (TOTM) sitting next to me in the dining room as we speak. I like to refer to them as MRE Jr.
    They’re like $4.95 at the Fort Meade Commissary.
    I bought Regular MREs a month ago or so, got like 8 and the girl up front scanned then as the TOTM bags.
    I just thing that the TOTMs (described as) are similar menus but they’re supposed to be for daytime (classroom/exercise) menu items and have a little lighter menu than MREs like 1,000 calories and maybe one or two items less than MREs but they have a candy item once (like skittles) not in the MREs. NOW that being said, the MREs at the commissary are like $10 a piece. I got away with it the first time by accident paying $5 a piece BUT at $10 a piece (the second time I went and they scanned them “right”) frecking MREs were $80.
    No Fucking WAY I’m being hipster for that price.
    I tried the TOTM basically, like I said, they have a main and a side and some snack items and even the heaters but maybe 1 or items different menu and since the kids want to eat them like anywhere from once or twice to like 3 or 4 or 5 times a week (if I let them, JESUS!!) it’s less expensive to toss a $5 at it than a $10.
    Basically the same thing. We’re not even getting into the beverage powers and hazelnut chocolate and shit and all that.
    ANYWAY, if anyone has a question about what’s out there today (since 2019) here are the current links and trust me, during an exercise at Fort Puke and England AFB, near the end with 19,000 other troops, we ended up with like 4 pallets of MREs no one would claim so we put them by our office on the flightline in the bunker building and went to town eating as many as we wanted, ratfucking everything and trying to *give * them away… no takers, much.
    SO I’ve eaten my fair share and like in the last month just about all the menus.
    Once thing I was *shocked by* was the vegetarian taco pasta whatever the fuck it was. Fucking Good (not great) but damn, shocked, 6/10 maybe more, “would eat again”
    SO, if you have any questions, the kids and I have eaten a shitload of them and I took a LOT of photos here. I’d have to transfer them to imgur to post them here AND YES, about 5 or so menu item have the mini Tabasco bottles in them so, I have like 3 of them on one of the frames of a large decorative photo I have in the living room.

    TOTMs
    https://www.dla.mil/TroopSupport/Subsistence/Operational-rations/totm/

    TOTM Menu
    https://www.dla.mil/Portals/104/Documents/TroopSupport/Subsistence/Rations/totm/vendor_totm_menu.pdf

    MREs last packaging menu (Table S: MRE XXXIX (2019) Menus *although the julian dates we bought said they were packed/manufactured like May 2020 )

    https://www.dla.mil/Portals/104/Documents/TroopSupport/Subsistence/Rations/qapubs/appa/mre39.pdf

    OK I just checked the TOTM I have sitting on the bench next to me and the pack date is 1027 to that’s Jan of this year. (1=2021 and 027 is the 27th day of the year.) Jan 2021

    (Disclaimer: I did post a lot of this on the Book of Face and yes, multiple people have said they’re reporting me to Child Protective Services for giving my kids multiples of these and photographing it/documenting it LOL , 😀 😀 😀 )