M.R.E(fficiency) II

We recently discussed military food waste, where I noted that more than a third of MREs are wasted. I learned this during my visit to the US Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Mass.

From what I was told, most of the waste comes not from half-eaten items so much as untouched ones. Soldiers “field strip” their rations, taking only the parts of the meals they want in an effort to reduce their pack weight. I’d do the same if I had a pack approaching 80 lbs.

During my visit, the Natick folks told me the MREs are made to last three years at 80 degrees, six months at 100 degrees and one month at 120 (F). Given that FEMA stored their hurricane relief rations in an uncooled trailer for an entire Alabama summer, the 279 truckloads of food thrown away wasn’t shocking. MREs, with their rugged plastic pouch, are pretty rugged, but they can’t work miracles.

When I visited Natick, I experienced the testing to see how products taste at various stages of storage. The Sensory Science Lab was testing Combos at various ages. As you’ll see below, I got to see if I could taste a difference between, say, a month-old and a year-old Combo (Pizza and Cheddar flavor Combos–troops like seeing name brand products).

I noticed a difference, but not enough to say that the older Combos should be thrown out. Then again, they weren’t stored in a scorching hot trailer. No government agency would be so, er…only FEMA would be so foolish.


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