Fast food for the Army--Mobility Enhancing Rations

In today's fast moving, high-tech world, people don't seem to sit still for very long. This goes for soldiers, too. To eat on the run, civilians can simply go to their favorite fast food franchise, order and drive away. This will be now be an option for soldiers in the field.

Well, sort of. The Army has developed a mobile ration that could be called a "meal-on-wheels."

Since the Army has become more and more mobile, a need exists for rations that can be eaten while on the go." Food technologists at Soldier System Command's Natick Research, Development and Engineering Center recently developed "Mobility Enhancing Ration Components." These components--"MERCs"--can be eaten out of hand and require no food preparation or eating utensils. The new items supplement existing field rations such as the Meal, Ready-to-Eat, or could stand alone as an assault ration. MERCs will support highly mobile and forward deployed troops and are suitable for Arctic, jungle, desert, mountain and urban areas.

NRDEC, under the Family of Operational Rations program, developed a family of shelf-stable sandwiches using major advances in food processing, preservation and packaging. The sandwiches consist of shelf-stable breads (bagel, biscuit and white) and a variety of fillings (beef, cheese, barbecue chicken, pepperoni, italian sausage, and peanut butter with jelly).

On Aug. 7-11, 1996, a technical demonstration was conducted at Fort Campbell, Ky. to see how soldiers accepted MERCs. Soldiers ate the MERC sandwich instead of the MRE entree for the three days. The sandwiches were evaluated to see how much they enhanced the mobility of troops in the field. The meals were packaged with the name "Meal On The Move" in a bag similar to that used for MREs. The label was designed with a picture of a soldier eating a sandwich while "on the move."

Each day the soldiers were asked to evaluate the acceptability of the individual components and the overall concept by completing a questionnaire. A more comprehensive questionnaire was completed on the final day of the test to obtain direct feedback on the benefits of the mobility enhancing components. The feedback is still being evaluated and will be used to make any modifications to improve MERCs.

Menu for MERC Technical Demonstration: Food items for the test consisted of a family of intermediate moisture shelf-stable sandwiches (made at NRDEC), current MRE components and commercially available items. The sandwiches were assembled into nutritionally complete meals using eat-out-of-hand MRE and commercial items. The test menus, consisting of approximately 1300 calories, were designed to meet the nutritional requirements of the warfighter.

The Army and NRDEC actively solicits private industry to collaborate in research and development of mutually useful items. A Cooperative Research and Development Agreement shares the technology and expertise of developing a particular item that has dual use for military and civilians.

In the case of the MERCs, GoodMark Foods Inc. is collaborating with NRDEC to further develop and commercialize shelf-stable sandwiches. The future, commercial version of the MERCs might be used by campers, hikers, mountain climbers, hunters and fishermen or anyone else who needs a lightweight, nutritious meal that requires no preparation or utensils.


2 Nacho Cheese Pockets
Beef Steak Strip
Jalapeno Cheese Spread
MRE Sugar Free Beverage
MRE Coffee,Instant
MRE Creamer, non-dairy
MRE Sugar
2 Sausage & Cheese Biscuits
Cereal Snack Mix
Nutrigrain Bar
MRE Cocoa Beverage
MRE Coffee,Instant
MRE Creamer, non-dairy
MRE Sugar

Benefits to soldiers:

Dual-Use Application:

Army News Service Story, dated January 27, 1997 -USA-

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Last update: January 29, 1997 at 1900