The requirements for military grade MREs (meals, ready to eat) are much stricter than those imposed on civilian MREs. The reasons for this is that military MREs need to meet the enhanced nutritional needs of highly active military personnel. Every self-contained meal package contains around 1200 calories and each case of individual meals includes a selection of a dozen different meals in order to ensure that a service member enjoys a healthy, varied diet.
Besides higher nutritional requirements, military grade MREs also have more stringent regulations on packaging than their civilian counterparts. The individual meal packaging need to protect the contents in a wide range of extreme operational environments, from subzero temperatures, to high altitude drops, to the scorching dry heat of desert terrain. The self-life of a MRE varies depending on the storage environment. In a laboratory-controlled perfect environment, a meal packet can last upwards of a decade. In the scorching desert heat, however, the shelf-life decreases to around 9 months. Military grade MREs are also designed to be as light as possible and on average each packet weighs about 25 ounces.
In the past, the range of military XMRE was limited and the taste was bland. The most important feature was the inclusion of a flameless ration heater (FRH) in each package, which allows soldiers to enjoy a hot meal anywhere. Over the years, however, The US Defense Department has expanded the range and it now possible to buy MREs that meet the tastes of almost any palate and the unique dietary requirements of almost any individual. There are now vegetarian, Kosher, Halal and vegan MREs available. The most popular varieties tend to be traditional America comfort food including beef stew, sloppy Joe, pot roast, beef patty, brisket entree and pork rib.