staff goes tactical to spill the beans on meals, ready to eat
The Airman staff “took one for the Air Force” when
it taste-tested — all
in one sitting — 23 of the U.S. military’s 24 meals, ready
Yummy and not so yummy.
But as expected, the entire staff survived. Nobody got sick or hurled
during the test. And many were surprised at their findings. But before
to the results, let’s look back just a bit, to a micro-sketch of
Napoleon said an army marches on its stomach. Today’s generals would
most assuredly agree with that.
But the little Frenchman didn’t have “le meals, ready to eat.” His
troops found food on the hoof, so to speak, and foraged for chow while
on the march. It was nothing new. Armies had done that for centuries. Not
a good thing for local farmers. In 1812, cows, pigs and sheep from Paris
to Moscow — all potential meals — trembled at the sight of
the general’s advancing army. Napoleon sure could have used a beef
enchilada MRE on the outskirts of Moscow, that’s for sure. Many of
his troops starved. No wonder he lost the campaign.
Today, armies are highly mobile and on the go day and night. Troops don’t
have the luxury of stopping to brew coffee or barbecue a cow. They have
to eat on the move to stay focused on the mission. So their meals must
be state-of-the-art, easy to eat and able to keep troops fueled in any
situation or climate. Taste, of course, is a big plus.
There are a host of rations for all occasions: arctic, survival, long-range
patrol, medical — even Kosher and Halal. But Airmen are most familiar
with meals, ready to eat in the well-known brown plastic pouch. There are
24 varieties, each with about 1,300 calories.
But MREs get bad reviews from some troops, who complain they’re not
very tasty. OK, they’re not the meals found at a four-fork restaurant,
or even McDonalds. But they’re well planned, top quality, nutritious,
portable, safe and satisfying.
In combat it’s tough getting anything better than that, GI. Besides,
it beats chasing down your meal all over the Afghan and Iraqi countryside.
After several hours of tasting, Airman staff members came up with their
Top 10 list of MREs — and the not-so-good entrées, too. Here’s
what they had to say.
Top fork-earning meals
|MRE #19, Beef Roast with
The real beef in this meal startled the entire staff. After tasting
other meat meals, they’d grown accustomed to spongy substitutes. “It’s
a Midwestern delight — in a bag,” was one comment. The
potatoes, however, were a different story. Very pasty, they tasted
like they came straight from a can. “But the thrill of real beef
overcame that shortcoming.”
|MRE #2, Pork Rib with New
England Style Clam Chowder
The pork rib was so good and realistic, one taster said, “I swear
I could taste bone marrow.” And the thick and creamy clam chowder
looked and tasted like it was shipped from Boston. The consensus: “The
clam chowder is very tasty. But you need to warm it to really enjoy
|MRE #12, Veggie Burger
with Barbecue Sauce
Surprisingly yummy. Hands down the most unexpected entrée in
the batch. The staff approached the veggie burger like Bambi at a rifle
range convention, timidly. But a taster said, “It tastes more
like meat than the beef-type entrées. It has surprisingly good
flavor. Definitely a meal I’d eat again.” Everyone agreed.
If only all vegetarian cuisine was this good.
|MRE #13, Cheese Tortellini
Tops the list for the Italian fare. “Smells great and is very
tomatoey. It looks good, too — like a normal dish. It’s
creamy, a good meal, overall.”
|MRE #15, Beef Enchiladas
with Picante Sauce
The best of the south-of-the-border entrees. “It has a spicy-Mexicany
taste worth trading for. The picante sauce has kick and mixes well
with the enchilada.”
|MRE #10, Chili Mac
Get what you pay for in this meal. No false advertising here. “Just
what I expected — a good-tasting chili mac. An American classic — dig
|MRE #3, Beef Ravioli
Another Italian meal in the “it’s-hard-to-mess-this-up” category. “Not
a bad deal. It tastes better than Chef Boy-R-Dee. And it looks good — always
|MRE #21, Chicken Tetrazzini
Looks like a school lunch.” Although the staff agreed it tasted
yummy, the texture was a bit disturbing. “Sticks to teeth and
gums a bit, but it’s really good.
|MRE #16, Chicken with Noodles
An old reliable and close kissing cousin to chicken tetrazzini — and
with the same disturbing problem. The taste was great, “but the
consistency was kind of weird. It stuck together like cow saliva [Napoleon’s
grenadiers would have loved that]. But looks were deceiving.”
|MRE #8, Beef Patty
with Mexican Mac & Cheese
The mac and cheese side dish kept this entrée from falling off
the list. The beef patty was unreal — as in not real. “It
was kind of like a ‘Mexican Sponge Bob.’”
Back to top
For more details about MREs, go to