Pizza MREs Are Latest Food Offering for U.S. Armed Forces

Have you ever eaten a McRib sandwich from McDonald’s? How about Cheetos or energy bars? I’m guessing you’ve definitely had a TV dinner at one time or another. Or at least bread from the supermarket.

And have you ever used cling wrap? Or a plastic cooler to keep food and beverages cool for a picnic or on the beach?

If you’ve consumed or used any of those items, you have benefited from research conducted by an organization with which we are all familiar.

I’m talking about the U.S. military.

Military’s R&D Ends Up on Our Plates

Food writer Anastacia Marx de Salcedo authored a book about the processed foods we buy. And some of the products we use. And how many of them come from our military’s research and development efforts.

It’s titled Combat-Ready Kitchen: How the U.S. Military Shapes the Way You Eat. The book shows how experiments done by the military turned into foods and products many of us use today.

These items began as the ideas of military researchers. They wanted to learn how to keep food from going bad when stored for a long time because it would be eaten by troops.

Most people don’t realize this. The U.S. military spearheaded the invention of restructured meat, extended-life bread, instant coffee and much more.

The McRib Is Tech Savvy

The McRib sandwich uses the technology that the military developed back in the 1970s. It’s called meat restructuring. The military turned this into veal, pork, lamb and beef meals served to troops in MREs.

Cheetos are on store shelves today because the military invented full-fat dehydrated cheese during World War II. It was part of an effort to reduce weight and volume of food shipments abroad.

The military tried for decades to develop an energy bar that would retain some moisture while having a long shelf life. Along came the Gaines-Burger dog food patty. It stayed soft even when stored at room temperature for months. The military used the same idea for energy bars.

Cling Wrap and Coolers

Bread goes stale quickly if it’s natural. But in the 1950s, the military partnered with researchers at Kansas State College to develop long-lasting bread.

The key was starchy bacterial enzymes. They can tolerate the heat of baking and keep bread soft and fresh for longer periods of time.

During World War II, cellophane was the only food film available. Edibles got soggy because moisture seeped in. A secret research program at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, plus research by Dow Chemical, led to Saran Wrap.

Keeping foods and beverages cool in the heat was a big challenge. At least until the 1950s when a project at the Natick Center led to the development of cellular polymers and foamed plastics. Plastic coolers were the result.

Military Research Continues – Long Awaited Pizza on the Horizon for Troops

Of course, the research continues. The military is constantly working to provide troops with lightweight, compact and filling meals they can eat while on the move.

One of everybody’s favorite food items is pizza. But pizza delivery drivers are hesitant to drive into combat zones.

Not to worry. The U.S. military is preparing to produce pizza MREs (meals ready to eat) for the troops.

In fact, troops have been asking for pizza MREs since the 1980s. These pizza meals will be lighter and more compact than previous MREs.

It’s expected they’ll be ready by 2019. And they should have a shelf life of about three years in a pouch.

Better Than Frozen Pizza

No one is promising that the taste will be as good as a freshly cooked pizza. But a spokesman for the Natick Soldier Research Development & Engineering Center in Maryland says it will be better than frozen pizza.

At first, pepperoni will be the only topping. But after input from troops, more toppings will be added.

The reason they’re waiting until 2019 is because the current supply of MREs has to run out first.

Waste not, want not.


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