What could be more American than a dish from Italy, right?  Invented in Naples, Pizza actually caught on faster in the U.S. than it did in Italy.  Given the high level of Italian cuisine in general, its not surprising that pizza which was basically the fast food of  Naples in the 1700s would have lots of competition in becoming popular.   But Americans love pizza so the military wanted to try and give the troops a little taste of home on far-flung battlefields all over the world. enter the Pizza MRE. 

Soldiers’ Meal Ready to Eat or MRE is a lightweight food ration given to the troops sent out in combat zones. It was designed to be compact while providing high levels of energy to keep our soldiers replenished while on the go. It was a great idea, except that MREs have a not-so-pleasant reputation. In fact, according to outdoorlife.com, “…if you ask any soldier who’s eaten perhaps a few too many of this meals-in-a-bag, you’ll hear some other colorful interpretations of those three letters. “Meals Rarely Edible,” “Meals Resembling Excretions,” “Meals Refusing to Exit,” and so forth.” There was even an experiment of MREs being cooked gourmet style by a New York chef. Their verdict: still gross.

But why pizza?

MRE pizza with packet. Image courtesy of Meal Kit Supply

Now enters pizza. The soldiers had been requesting for it to be included in their warzone menu for years(Why they would actually ask for an MRE pizza given their reputation is mystifying). Finally, the US Army took heed and decided to grant that wish, so they engineered an MRE pepperoni pizza with cheese and sauce. It includes cheddar and jalapeno cheese spread, cookies, breadsticks, cherry-blueberry cobbler, and a chocolate protein drink. If you want to see how the pizza and the whole MRE package look like, you can watch it here:

Problems Encountered

As per Global Defence Technology, “The Combat Feeding Directorate (CFD) at the Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Center (NSRDEC) have been working with the commercial food industry to create a slice of pizza that lasts three years and withstands 80°F temperatures. In order to create heat-tolerant mozzarella cheese, scientists had to control moisture, pH, and oxygen levels.”

All the components of the pizza— bread, sauce, meat, cheese all have to survive in the same container without going bad, getting stale, or becoming moldy.

According to Stephen Moody, CFD’s director, “This product is a great example of using food science to meet the challenging and unique requirements for military rations.” 

As an aside, we think “The Combat Feeding Directorate” would make a great name for a restaurant chain with an all MRE menu.  Reach out to us in the comments section for franchise opportunities in your area.

Nutrition Value

Nutrition Facts, MRE Pizza. From user blue87fj60 via mreinfo.com

What’s an MRE for if it’s not going to load up our troops with high levels of necessary vitamins and minerals? Just like the bars of chocolate modified by Hershey’s to help soldiers in WWII. Here’s what our one serving of pizza-in-a-pouch (88 grams) could offer in terms of nutritional value:

  • 280 calories
  • 12g of fat, including 5g of saturated fat
  • 0g of trans-fat
  • 10g of protein
  • 2g of sugar

While it might not be the best-looking (and certainly not the best tasting) pizza in the world, the harsh environment and extreme cravings of our soldiers might make it taste like the best pizza ever.  Or it might get them so mad that they fight the enemy harder and win the war earlier in order to get back home and eat a real pizza.  So the actual purpose behind the MRE pizza might be psychological rather than nutritional. 

MRE Pizza. From user blue87fj60 via mreinfo.com

Would you like to try it yourself?