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Five Things You May Not Know About Military Rations

5 Things You Don't Know About: Rations (
May 06, 2016

This video leads us through 5 facts that you may not know about military rations. It covers everything from WWII to the future.

Think you know what a C-ration is, the relation of SPAM to military rations or where rations will come from in the future? Watch the video and find out.


Let’s face it, hauling food around on the battlefield can’t be easy and then there is usually no where to set up or prepare anything, leaving very limited resources. This has been a problem since the earliest wars because there is no choice, the human body requires food.


Did you know that it wasn’t until 1944 that any effort was put into making rations taste even remotely appealing? Modern ration research began in 1936 with the founding of the Subsistence Research Laboratory in Chicago. They worked together with the American food industry to make rations that met four key criteria, nutritional adequacy, storage stability, military functionality, and sensory adaptability.

The entry into WWII meant they had to mass produce rations that could be quickly shipped to every corner of the globe, which meant that nutrition, storage and functionality took precedence and taste took a back seat. So many complaints came in about the food that in 1944 the government finally decided to do something to make them taste better.

By 1944, 90 percent of Hormel’s canned foods were shipped for government use. During WWII many manufacturers saw a lucrative opportunity with the food rations. By early 1945, 60 percent of all Hormel’s products were consumed by U.S. troops.


Popularly referred to as C-rations, the food that troops ate during the Vietnam War were really MCI’s. Troops were often in the battlefield for weeks at a time, so they all had experience cooking what they called C-rations. These were Meal Combat Individual Rations, which were introduced in 1958, as a replacement. These included new menu options designed to reduce monotony and for the troops to eat the entire ration in order to get all of the much-needed calories. However, they were barely any better than the C-rations, which is why they still called them C-rations.


Did you know that “Tabasco Mac” was awarded the Navy Cross for actions during the Battle of Guadalcanal in 1942? In 1986, the MRE became the first non-canned standard issued field ration. These were packaged in lightweight bags and also contained items like toilet paper, gum, matches, and a tiny bottle of Tabasco sauce for flavor. The former president of Tabasco’s company was a Marine in WWII. He was dubbed the nickname, Tabasco Mac.

In the future, 3D printing may be used to create rations. Today, researchers are working to completely redesign rations for the troops. They call it future general-purpose operational rations. It tailors rations to specific parts of the world and producing food with 3D printers. This would include 24 different entrees and 150 additional items.