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What is the Difference between Civilian MRE VS. Military MRE


HISTORY: All about MRE -  Meal, ready-to-eat

Ever since man acquired the ability to wage war and fight conflicts, a steady flow of supplies is vital in any campaign.  Other than ammunition, food as fuel for the fighting men developed over the years is crucial.

From the Roman Legionnaires to the Christian Crusaders and two World Wars in the past century,  we have seen the evolution of how large armies get to win their war through a constant supply of sustenance.  It started with dried meat, a few grains for porridge, and bread was considered substantial.

G.I.’s in World War II received standard C-rations for the infantry and K-rations for the airborne regiments.  By the 1950s, the U.S Army developed  MCI or the Meal, Combat, Individual both for the Korean War and the Vietnam War in the 1960s.  To further modernize the food preparation and packaging technology Dr. Abdul Rahman, a food scientist at the Natick Labs created the first MRE prototypes using freeze-dried and dehydrated foods.  

A soldier in 1976 testing out baked beans at U.S. Army Natick Research and Development Laboratories. | Courtesy of Digital Commonwealth

A soldier in 1976 testing out baked beans at U.S. Army Natick Research and Development Laboratories. | Courtesy of Digital Commonwealth 

WHAT IS A MILITARY MRE?  Food for the soldiers on the go   

The US military has utilized MRE full meal kits for almost all their combat operations.  The Military Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamins and minerals recommends that a complete full MRE meal provides the soldier an average of 1,250 calories.  One whole day’s worth of meal consists of three full MREs.



Generally, a Military MRE contains the following items:


  • Entree - the main course, such as pasta or beef stew
  • Side dish - rice, corn, potatoes or fruit
  • Cracker or bread
  • Spread - peanut butter, jelly, or cheese spread
  • Dessert - cookies or pound cakes
  • Candy - M&Ms, Skittles, or Tootsie Rolls
  • Beverages - electrolyte replacement drink, cocoa, dairy shakes, coffee, tea
  • Hot sauce or seasoning - enhance flavoring
  • Flameless Ration Heater - water-activated chemical heater used to heat the food.
  • Accessories - spoon, creamer, sugar, salt, chewing gum, toilet paper, and Tabasco Sauce.


WHAT IS A CIVILIAN MRE? MRE full meal for prepping and outdoor activities

When we lack the luxury of safety and convenience in food preparation, like in our own home, these pre-packed meals provide the right solution.  Many civilian mre for sale in the market are comparable in many ways with the military mre.  Unfortunately, military mre are not allowed to be sold for public consumption.  For the typical civilian adventurer, having a full mre meal will mean a great chance of survival when camping in the wilderness.   Knowing that you have a heated meal available in the absence of fire, 

The advent of Survivalism encouraged individuals and groups to actively prepare for natural emergencies and possible disruptions in social and political functioning on a local or international level.  In this case, a civilian mre is a good addition to your stockpile of emergency food supply.

The average Civilian MRE, meals ready to eat or MRE contains the following food items:

  • Entree – This is the main course which is beef stew, spaghetti, or any other items depending on the brand of the MRE.
  • Bread or cracker
  • Side dish – Mashed potatoes, corn, rice, or fruit
  • Dessert – Pound cakes or cookies
  • Spread – Cheese spread, jelly or butter
  • Candy – Skittles, M&Ms, or Tootsie Rolls
  • Hot Sauce or seasoning – for added flavor
  • Beverages – Dairy shakes, Tea, cocoa, coffee, or electrolyte mixes
  • FRH or flameless ration heater, a chemical used to heat the meal
  • Accessories – Sugar, creamer, spoon, salt, pepper, and napkin.

THE DIFFERENCE:    A very subtle difference

On contents - based on the above comparison they only differ in the accessories.  The military mre has chewing gum, toilet papers and matches.

On packaging- the civilian packaging is a bit fancy and commercial while military mre will specifically indicate that it is not for resale. Buying and selling military mres are is considered illegal by the military.

On shelf life - MRE, ready to eat meals can last for quite a while in the right conditions. It’s a good idea to buy MRE meals in bulk because they last a long time without having to be refrigerated.  

MREs are meant to stand up to extreme weather conditions, but they're not invincible. The average MRE shelf life lasts three years in 75 degrees fahrenheit. When kept in cooler conditions, they can last for 5 to 10 years and still be safe to consume.  However, you should note that an MRE will only last about a month if stored in 120 degrees fahrenheit. The cooler the storage condition, the longer they last.  What’s important is that they are both safe to consume, reliable, and very nutritious. The army has tested these meals when stored correctly, and shown no appreciable difference in color and taste.



You cannot really appreciate the benefits of an MRE if you're sitting in your kitchen or your living room eating it. The benefit of an MRE is when you're cold, wet, tired and hungry, sitting in the dark in the rain on a mountainside or on a battlefield somewhere. And you can open up an MRE full meal, enjoy hot tasty food, have something that reminds you of home and have better times and that's really what the benefits of the MRE are and how you can really appreciate them.

If you'd like to see What is in an MRE Case

Click here for a customer "unboxing and taste test" review video  

MRE Star are shelf stable, fully cooked complete meals that need no refrigeration. They are convenient, ready to eat right out of the pouch, and provide good tasting, nutritious, high-calorie meals for camping, hunting, traveling, and as a back-up emergency, disaster, and survival food supplies. 

For more information and where to buy mre meals visit us here.

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