Meal Ready to Eat is a popular subject here. XBrad’s post from June 2008 still gets hits. I wrote about my first MRE when I was a co-op student. Which leads me to this post.
When my friend Ben had to sell his house and move into assisted living, he sold some of his stuff to me, which included, among other things, a case of MRE entrees and a few full meal MREs. These have been great for camping and for Rocketboy to keep as an emergency lunch in his locker (no cafeteria at his school). But as time passed, I wondered just how long do MREs keep? There’s no expiration date on them.
From the ReadyStore website, I learned that they stamp a modified Julian date on the MRE.
This code is usually stamped on the MRE box and pouch. The location of the code can vary. The first digit represents the year, and the last three digits represent the day. So, for example, the code 7304 would mean it was manufactured on the 304th day of 2007. Sometimes other letters representing batch numbers will be appended to the date code (i.e. 7304C).
You can see on the example… that code 1172 would mean that it was manufactured in 2011 on June 20th (the 172 day of the year).
The second MRE has a manufacture code of 1348. This would translate to Dec. 13, 2011.
The third MRE would have been manufactured on Nov. 1, 2011.
Since the official longevity of an MRE is no longer than 10 years, and the modified date code makes it impossible to determine the decade of manufacture, this calculator assumes that your MREs are not 10 years old or more.
That official longevity also assumes a decent storage temperature. Stored in a cool place, MREs should last that long. But as I discovered from the Defense Logistics Agency report on “Evaluation of Temperature Stressed MREs”, things get gross quick at higher temperatures.
For example, the applesauce:
or the cheese sauce:
so I wouldn’t recommend storing them in your garage or your attic. Mine, however, have been kept at room temperature or lower, and I would assume if it looks good and smells good (well, as good as an MRE can look or smell), it should be fine. DLA posted more comparison photos here. Looks like anything with fruit won’t keep very long.
I’ve been eating the entrees on occasion for lunch at work and at home. I’m the child of two parents who grew up during the Depression, so I hate to waste food, but at the same time, I looked at that Julian date and figured they have served their purpose of being emergency food. So far, the beef roast with vegetables has been the best in taste and appearance. The meatloaf with onion gravy looked great until that last lump of fat slid out of the pouch. Mr. RFH stated that he should have kept the chicken and salsa in the pouch because it didn’t look good, but it tasted fine. Sloppy Joe, grilled beef patty, and chili with macaroni have been fine. Mr. RFH said the spaghetti was really good. The only one I’ve tossed so far was an enchilada that was packed with no sauce and just didn’t look right. I figured if they forgot the sauce, they might have forgotten something else.