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Can Civilians Buy MREs?

MRE’s are compact, store easily, and contain an average of 1250 calories per meal. The convenience of MREs makes them an attractive option for civilians. So, can civilians buy MRE’s?

Authentic military MRE’s are not intended for commercial resale. Military personnel are not allowed to sell MRE’s for personal profit. Yet, civilians can purchase MRE’s. No laws prohibit members of the public from selling and buying MRE’s.

Can Civilians Legally Buy Military MREs?

No laws currently forbid the resale of Meal, Ready-to-Eat (MRE) rations. However, the government discourages individuals from reselling MREs.

MREs are purchased by the Department of Defense (DoD) using government funds. The MREs acquired by the DoD include the message “US Government Property, Commercial Resale is Unlawful”. Yet, the warning technically only applies to military personnel.

Under Article 108 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, military personnel may be prosecuted for the destruction or loss of property. MRE’s are considered government property, making the sale of MRE’s a crime for military personnel.

Military MREs still end up in the consumer market through online marketplaces, such as eBay. Military MREs found online are often expired or near their expiration date.

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What Are MREs?

Meal, Ready-to-Eat (MRE) kits include individually packaged meals. The typical kit includes 12 meals. Each meal offers about 1250 calories, which is about half of the required daily calories for the average person. MREs were designed as self-contained field rations for the US military. The meals are precooked and do not require refrigeration.

The first MREs were developed in the 1960s and included freeze-dried and dehydrated foods. Modern MREs no longer contain freeze-dried or dehydrated ingredients. The packages contain water and weigh about 18 to 26 ounces. The packaging is also made to withstand harsh environments. MREs can withstand drops of more than 30 meters and have a shelf life of at least 3.5 years.

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MREs became standard issue for the US military in 1986 and included a selection of 12 entrees. The main producers of military MREs now offer 24 different entrees and over 150 additional foods. The typical meal includes a main course, side dish, crackers or bread, dessert, and the flameless ration heater (FRH).

The package may also contain a cheese spread, peanut butter, or jelly. Some kits come with a full set of utensils but most MREs come with a single plastic spoon.

While the meals are ready to eat cold, service members typically prefer to heat them. The provided flameless ration heater is a pouch with powdered magnesium metal. When water is added, a chemical reaction causes the water to reach its boiling point quickly.

Who Makes MRE Meals for the Military?

The MREs produced for the Department of Defense come from just three manufacturers:

  • AmeriQual Foods
  • SOPAKCO
  • Wornick Foods

A fourth company, International Meals Supply, produces emergency rations for the government.

All four companies also produce civilian versions of their MRE products:

  • APack (AmeriQual)
  • Sure-Paks (SOPAKCO)
  • EverSafe (Wornick)
  • MREStar (International Meals Supply)

The civilian MREs contain most of the same features found in military MREs. Several products also include the flameless ration heater found in military MREs. However, the civilian MREs offer a limited variety of meals.

The military MREs include 24 different meal options. Most civilian MRE products include a selection of six different meals.

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Do MREs Actually Taste Bad?

Military MREs have a reputation for tasting bad. Members of the military have given MREs a variety of nicknames based on their distaste for the meals, including “Meals Rarely Edible” and “Meals Rejected by Everyone.” However, MRE manufacturers continue to improve and refine the meals.

Where to Buy MREs?

Military MREs are available on online marketplaces, such as eBay. MREs may also occasionally be found at small local stores, such as army surplus stores. However, the military MREs that end up on the consumer market do not come directly from the manufacturer.

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Military MREs are produced solely for the military, which means that MREs sold online or at local stores may come from any source. The MREs are more likely to have older dates and a higher risk of damage or contamination.

Civilian MREs are readily available from reputable online retailers. Consumers can also purchase civilian MREs directly from the manufacturers. Most MREs are sold in cases of 12. The average cost is between $50 and $65.

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