What military rations taste like, according to an active serviceman. (It's not pretty.)

Today is Veterans Day, the day on which we honor our men and women in uniform for their service to our nation… and also for eating some of the worst food in the world while doing it.

We had our active serviceman friend, who will remain unnamed so he doesn’t get deactivated, tell us the bitter (and sometimes a few other "flavors") truth about the contents of the MREs ("Meals, Ready-to-Eat") the military somehow survives on in the field. The blow-by-blow is below. Brace your colon.

veteran's day mre
Flickr/Phillip Stewart

MREs at a Glance

So, on the whole, MREs vary pretty widely. Some of them are actually decent to eat, especially if you heat them up. Other ones are pretty ambitious to even call themselves food -- like, I wouldn't feed them to my dog, and he eats all sorts of terrible things.

Once you eat MREs for even a couple days straight, they all start tasting the same. And they carry with them the universal truth of constipation -- serious, unrelenting constipation. That's probably the worst part of MREs for days at a stretch. No, you won't starve to death, but you're going to be spending some time at full grunt trying to get them out of you.

veteran's day mre
Wikipedia/Tech. Sgt. Cherie A. Thurlby

Veggie Burger with BBQ Sauce

The military tends to be a pretty anti-vegetarian environment, so even the attempt at including meatless meals in MREs is confusing and suspicious. This veggie burger doesn’t taste like vegetables or burgers of any variety. It tastes more like woe. And maybe really old chickpeas that got run over by an Abrams.

Dairy Shake Powder, Strawberry

These come in a few different flavors, and there are always guys in the field that will aggressively barter for these pouches of sawdust, but I never understood the appeal. Mixing the powder with water produces a chalky mixture that’s made worse by reminding you just how far away you are from actual milkshakes.

veteran's day mre
Flickr/Bart Everson

Cheese Spread with Jalapeños

This is one of the most prized items of any MRE, and it legitimately tastes good when spread on crackers, or even just taken straight. That said, there is no question in my mind that this “cheese spread” does irreparable damage once it enters your body. Imagine the depravity involved if you’re willing to mainline this “cheese” straight into your mouth. But who cares? It’s like a tube of nachos.

Vegetable Omelette

This is legendary throughout the military as the worst MRE entrée available. Again, the vegetarian attempt is suspicious, and it combines the consistency of those old-school PowerBars and the taste of, like, Reno... or something. Pair it with the included potato mixture for a true breakfast of people who have never won a championship of any kind.

veteran's day mre
Charms Candy


Any story about MREs would be incomplete without mentioning the superstition attached to Charms candy by military guys. Charms are not allowed to be consumed or kept anywhere; they’re seen as bad luck. And yet they keep giving them to you. It’s almost like a weird, confusing test.

Chili and Macaroni

Chili mac is absolutely one of the better MRE entrees available. It both smells and looks terrible, but even without heating it, the taste is decent. Which is a win. Every other MRE is universally known to stop the gastric process in its tracks, but chili mac will loosen up even the most stubborn of intestines. I recommend digging your poop-hole before you crack open the package -- there might not be time after you eat it.

veteran's day mre
Flickr/The Sporkful

Heating Pack

MRE insults don’t stop with the food -- even the heating pack contains multiple assaults on your taste and decency. The instructions are hilarious, especially the super-honest “ROCK OR SOMETHING” diagram. Perhaps in a testament to how inedible the actual food is, the chemical heating pack contains warnings about not eating it. MRE food is so bad that the non-food must be labeled as such.