Support: April 4, 2003


After 23 years, the MRE (Meal, Ready to Eat) is finally getting some respect. Often the only food available for troops in the field, early MREs were criticized for awful taste and sometimes literally rotten ingredients. Over the last decade, the Department of Defense has used an ongoing survey of the troops to discover which MREs were popular, and which were detested. There are 24 different MREs available, and the least popular ones are regularly dropped while new ones are introduced. Proposed new MREs undergo a lot of field testing with the troops, and those that do not make a good impression, never enter the regular lineup. Each MRE still weighs about 24 ounces and has about 1200 calories. Troops going into combat onfoot often strip away a lot of the stuff in an MRE they don't need, reducing the weight to about a pound. Another problem with MREs was troops giving them to hungry local civilians. These people were often malnourished and not accustomed to American food. So the HDR (Humanitarian Daily Ration) was developed and is currently available for the troops to distribute whenever they operate in an area likely to have a lot of hungry civilians. The HDR is similar to an MRE, but with some important differences. The HDR is designed to provide a full days calories for a moderately malnourished person. In order to be acceptable to the widest possible variety religious and dietary restrictions, HDRs contain no animal products or animal by-products, except for minimal amounts of dairy products. There are also no alcohol and alcohol-based ingredients. The HDR meal bag is bright yellow for easy visibility. Unfortunately, that color is similar to the ones used for cluster bombs bomblets, so a new color is being selected. The HDR meal bag uses graphic descriptions of how to open the bag eat the contents. Unlike the MRE, which is one meal, the HDR contains two meals, to provide a day's worth of food (2,200 calories total.) A spoon and a non-alcohol-based, moist towelette are the only non-food components in the HDR meal bag. Troops are often given a lot of HDRs if they are expected to encounter civilians, and handing them out often wins friends very quickly. The troops often tend to hand out the candy, and other treats, from their MRES, to local children. 


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