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"America's Foremost Preparedness
Food and Gear Co."

FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions & General MRE Information:


What Does "MRE" Stand for?  

MRE (which are pronounced as separate letters M,R,E) stands for ‘Meals-Ready-to-Eat’. They were developed to replace the old "c" and "k" rations formally use by the military. MRE's were developed for use by U.S. soldiers in combat conditions and humanitarian food assistance around the world.

Today in the "civilian" world, MRE's have broad appeal and are used by weekend backpackers, campers, hunters, and for home and business emergency reserves. Unlike freeze-dried and dehydrated foods, MRE's require no water, boiling water or waiting for rehydration. The special flexible foil "retort" pouch used in making MRE’s is composed of multiple laminations of aluminum foil and plastic film. Because of their rugged durability and ease of stowing, the MRE pouch has earned the well-deserved nickname "the flexible can".

Each complete MRE meal provides a generous 1200 to 1400 calories per meal. Most MRE's meals currently offered on the market are a "civilianized" versions and use a combination of both military MRE components, i.e, entree and side dishes, with the addition of commerical components such as snack items and accessory packet. The "civilianized" MRE's are much more afordable and typically cost about $6 vs $10 each for the military versions. Most come packed 12 meals to a case.

Each MRE Complete Meal Pouch Typically Includes:

  1. Soda type crackers and a spread, like cheese, peanut butter
    or jelly as an appetizer
  2. A main course entree, like beef steak, chicken & noodles, turkey breast, etc.
  3. A complementing side dish like fruit, rice, soup or potatoes
  4. Some type of dessert, snack or candy
  5. An accessory packet which includes: matches, spoon, wet wipe, salt, pepper,
    coffee and sweetener (some may include an alternative beverage powdered
    drink, too).
  6. Military versions also include a mini roll of toilet tissue.

How Long Will MRE’s Last?

Most MRE manufacturers usually state a shelf-life of approximately 4 to 6 years. Actual shelf-life may vary from this estimate depending on a variety of factors. One of the key factors effecting shelf-life is the temperature of the storage environment. Storage at temperatures higher than 85°F may shorten the shelf-life of MRE's. On the other hand, lowering the storage temperature will help extend the shelf-life. This effect is common to all MRE's and store bought foods.

The chart below shows the projected storage life of MRE meals over time based on storage temperature. These figures were the result of studies conducted by the U.S. Army's NATIC Research Laboratories. The data is useful, though not a guarantee, as a general indication of the effects of storage temperatures on the shelf life of MRE food items. The effect of temperature and time are cumulative. For example, if stored at 100°F for 11 months and moved to 70°F, would lose one half of the 70°F storage life. The shelf-life determination is based on product taste and nutritional content. The product safety should extend beyond this point though.



MRE Storage Life Chart:

Temperature (°F)Months of Shelf-Life

The above storage data and time periods were based on “acceptable taste” measures, which is a subjective standard that may vary among each individual. Test participants were asked to indicate which products they were presented would be rated to still be of “acceptable taste”. Responses were noted, and average values were calculated to yield the data above. The resulting data does not indicate the maximum useful life of MRE food products. The NATIC study noted that nutritional value and product safety value of the products often extended far beyond these time points. Again, this information is provided as a general indication of the effects of storage temperature on MRE-type packaged foods and not necessarily a guarantee from the manufacturers.

In addition, freezing an MRE “retort” (multi layered foil barrier ‘soft-can’) pouch will not destroy the food inside, but repeated freezing increases the chance that the pouch may cause a pouch lamination failure. These pouches are made to withstand 1,000 flexes, but repetitive freezing does increase the failure rate by a small fraction of a percent.


What Specs were MRE's Designed to Meet?

MRE pouches have been extensively tested by the U.S. Military and designed to a higher standard that normal store bought foods. Here are just some of the rigorous requirement they were made to meet:


  1. 100% survival rate from a military cargo parachute drop
  2. A survival rated of at least 75% in the event of a
    air cargo parachute failure
  3. Survive under the harshest of weather conditions
  4. Withstand extreme soldier field abuse
  5. Handle outdoor storage anywhere in the world
  6. Pass 7,000 individual pouch drops from 20 inches
  7. Be able to withstand a static load of 200 pounds for three minutes.


What do MRE's Taste Like?


Opinions very all over the board on this question. Just like store canned goods, you either like them or not. They taste very similar to canned foods. We have some customers that love eating MRE’s so much that they have them for lunch several times a week. Then again, I've heard military grunts say that MRE's really stand for "Meals-Rejected-by-Ethiopians" (they probably miss Mom’s cooking). Personally, I have used MRE's for years and like the good majority of them. They are not "gourmet foods", but hey, they still are very good overall. The convenience is tough to beat.

Are MRE's Dehydrated or Freeze-Dried?

No. MRE's are totally different. Unlike dehydrated or freeze dried foods which both require water to reconstitute them, MRE's are precooked "in the pouch" and retain their full moisture like canned food items, just with a much longer shelf-life.

Can MRE's be Eaten Cold?

You bet. The main MRE entrees, such as Beef Steak, Chicken with Noodles, Turkey Breast, etc.(meal varieties constantly change), require no cooking prior to eating. Each MRE entree can be eaten cold, directly from the pouch. Now I will admit, eating MRE's cold is like eating from a store bought canned food item. They are always ‘better tasting’ when warmed up. Just tear open the pouch and eat straight out of it, anytime, anywhere!

What’s the Best Way to Warm/Heat Up an MRE?

MRE pouches can be heated-up in a variety of different ways. Use your imagination. Here are just a few of the most common ways:

  1. Using Water-Activated MRE Flameless Instant Heater Pads or by using Mountain House's "Mountain Oven®" heater Mountain Oven Flameless Food Pouch Heating Kit.
  2. Lay the foil pouch in direct sunlight, allowing the sun to warm it.
  3. Placed the pouch up against your body, allowing its' radiated heat to warm the food inside.
  4. Pouch contents can placed squeeze out into a bowl or plate and heated in a microwave oven.
  5. The pouch can be laid on a warm surface, such as a warm engine block, to absorb the heat from the warm object.


  6. The sealed pouch can be placed in a pan of warm or hot water for 5-10 minutes. (If you use hot water, be careful. The foil pouch can get very hot and cause burns).


No mater how you heat-up your MRE entree meal, although the foil pouch is very strong and durable, it can be damaged if too high of a temperature is applied. NEVER apply direct flame to the pouch like from a BBQ or campfire. The outer and inner layers of plastic laminate will melt and contaminated the food.

Is There Some Reason for the Tan & Green Colors of MRE's?

The tan and green colors were selected to help provide low visibility in the field. Bright colors or shiny packages could unnecessarily 'giveaway' a soldiers position in battle.

Can MRE’s be used for Camping?

Absolutely! The ready-to-eat convenience of MRE's make them ideal for use while backpacking, camping, hunting, boating and fishing.

Are MRE’s Good for Food Reserves and Emergency Preparedness?

MRE’s are an excellent choice for short term (1-3 months) food reserves. When is comes to Emergency Food Reserves, several consideration must be taken into account. The basics considerations are 1) What emergency are you preparing for (power blackout, earthquake, hurricane, terrorist attack, etc.), and 2) How long do you want to prepare for? Here are some of the Advantages & Disadvantages to MRE’s you may wish to consider:

MRE Advantages

  1. Each MRE entree meal is pre-cooked, ready-to-eat
  2. Can be eaten hot or cold straight from the pouch
  3. No cooking or preparation needed
  4. Easy to transport in the event of an
  5. Shelf-life up to 4 – 6 years
  6. Complete Meal in One Package
  7. Only water needed is for beverage.
  8. No dishes or clean-up!

MRE Disadvantages

  1. Cost more than freeze-dried meals
  2. Requires more space for storage vs freeze-dried foods
  3. Meal selection limited. Usually 6 to 12 different meals available
    at any one given time.
  4. Some do not like their taste (subjective)

A word of caution. Some dealers offer old surplus MRE's, especially at swap meets and gun shows. They are often the military "brown pouch" versions that have usually been discarded in the field after training. These meals could have dramatically reduced shelf-lives due to unknown storage conditions. We do not recommend these for long term storage.

Military MRE Legal Update
The government is cracking down on illegal sales of military issued MRE meals. It now requires all new cases of MRE's to have plainly printed on the box: "U.S. GOVERNMENT, COMMERCIAL RESALE IS UNLAWFUL". Does this affect the commercial sale of military issued MRE's? You bet. It is strictly against the law. For years their has been a sort of 'black market' in MRE's. Be careful when you buy MRE's. Don"t take chances on "Gun Show", or "off the street " MRE's, besides being illegal to possess, they may be no edible to eat. We highly recommend that you never gamble with with your foods reserves. They are your 'insurance policy'. Know your source. Nitro-Pak offers only Full Meal MRE meals and components that are legal to own. All are fresh from the factory. We never sell surplus MRE's.

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