MRE (Meals Ready to Eat) Information


MRE Shelf Life Chart
(based on taste testing at U.S. Army’s Natick Research Laboratories) Storage Temperature 100°F90°F85°F80°F75°F70°F60°F Storage Life in Months (and years) 22 Mo

  • (1.8 yrs)55 Mo
  • (4.5 yrs)60 Mo
  • (5 yrs)76 Mo
  • (6.3 yrs)88 Mo
  • (7.3 yrs)100 Mo
  • (8.3 yrs)130+ Months
  • (10.8+ years)

Notes about MRE shelf life

We tell our customers to figure on a 5-year shelf life for MRE items at room temperature. But from the chart, you can see that the cooler you can keep your MREs, the better. If stored at room temperature (75 degrees on the high end), the taste testing indicates slightly over seven (7) years. If you can keep them in a cooler environment like a basement or in a refrigerated home or cooler , the shelf life can be over ten (10) years. Remember, the shelf life of a MRE is based on taste testing, and not that the product goes bad and would be harmful to you. You can find videos on YouTube of people eating 25-30 year old MRE’s.

The manufacturer uses an estimated shelf life figure of “3 to 5 years, plus or minus” for shelf stable food products. Actual shelf life may vary from this estimate. A key factor effecting actual shelf life is the temperature of the storage environment. Storage at temperatures higher than 85°F will shorten the shelf life of MRE’s. Lowering the storage temperature will help extend the products’ shelf life. This effect is common to most processed food products. The thing to remember with any food preservation is M.O.L.T (Moisture, Oxygen, Light and temperature.

The shelf life figures given in the table for MREs are based on taste test studies conducted by the U.S. Army’s Natick Research Laboratories. This study was conducted by the US Army Natick Research Laboratories without participation of the MRE manufacturers. As such, the manufacturer cannot verify the test procedures used by the NATICK labs, nor do they adopt these shelf life figures as a guarantee of any sort. The data is useful, though, as a general indication of the effects of storage temperatures on the shelf life of MRE-type food products.

Are MRE’s Non-GMO or Allergen Free

Generally speaking military rations and components are not GMO free and may contain allergens. All food items found in our MRE’s will have nutritional information and allergens posted on the label.

How Are MRE’s Heated?

MRE literally stands for “Meals Ready to Eat” so they technically do not have to be heated. That being said not many people like eating cold meals, so all Z-Rations come with a chemical heater. All you have to do is add water and follow the directions on the heater bag. Should you find you don’t have a heater you could set it in the Sun or if your on the move you can place the entree next to your body to heat the meal. As a general guideline for using a heater you would do the following.

  • Slide the MRE pouch into the plastic sleeve of the Heater.
  • Add approximately 1oz (1–2 tbsp) of water (or saltwater activation packet if provided) to the Heater and place the Heater into the cardboard box. Note: The chemical reaction will begin the heating process immediately upon adding the water. (Note our heaters are significantly larger than military heaters and require at least 70ML or 2.4 ounces of water)
  • Place the heater at a 45-degree angle by resting it against a firm vertical surface. Allow the MRE pouch contents to heat for several minutes (5 minutes or until hot)
  • Carefully remove the entree/s from the heater bag, MRE Pouch can be very HOT!
  • Carefully cut open the MRE entree and your ready for a warm meal

If you are just eating them at home or around a campfire you can remove the MRE entree contents to a proper bowl and either heat it over the fire or heat it in a Microwave or on the stove. Do not put the MRE retort pouch in the microwave as it is metalized plastic. It would be best to save the MRE flameless ration heater for a time when you actually need one.

MRE Expiration dates

No MRE’s do not technically have an expiration date, but as we mentioned above they do have a shelf life and that life is greatly dependent on the storage temperatures. Military MREs use a date code that represents the year and day the MRE entree was packaged. Other manufacturers either follow that or have there own.

Examples of D.O.P (Date of Production)

Military Date Code 8213. The 8 is the year and the 213 is the 213th day of 2018. If you had an MRE with this date it would have been packaged on August 1st 2018

C9EB282D This is a long one that describes a lot of things. The only two characters you need to be concerned with is the first two. The “C” is the 3rd letter of the alphabet so here it represents the 3rd month (March) The “9” is the year, in this case it would be 19, so if you had this MRE entree it would have been made in March of 2019. (if interested the 282D would be 28th day 2nd shift)

What is the Difference Between Freeze Dried, Dehydrated and MRE (Meals Ready to Eat)

In a nutshell Dehydrated food has a lot of the moisture removed (think Jerky) Freeze Dried has most of the moisture removed (think astronaut ice cream sandwich) and MRE’s have all of there moisture intact.

Freeze Dried Foods – Should have 98 to 99% of all moisture removed. This process allows for the longest storage times but it also requires the most water to reconstitute. Nobody really knows how long freeze dried food will be good for if stored properly. Several years ago Mountain house increased the time from 25 years to 30 years. That is because they were 30 years old and the food still tasted good. Freeze Dried food is also very light and easier to move, but as mentioned it will require a water source. Do not plan on eating Freeze Dried food for an extended period of time without reconstituting it. It will take the water from your body. Eating it as a snack is fine.

Dehydrated Foods – Has 90 to 95% of it’s moisture removed and is more susceptible than freeze dried food to spoilage over time, but takes less water to re-hydrate.

MRE Meals Ready to Eat – Has all moisture intact and requires no water to eat. It will be heavier calorie for calorie. Great to have in a food storage but I would recommend rotating it every 5 years.

Difference Between Military and Civilian MRE’s

This question is tricky because it could have several meanings, so we need context.

Do Military MRE Entrees and Civilian Entree’s Have a Similar Shelf Life?
Yes, all manufacturers have to have there food tested to see if it meets the minimum 3 year shelf life at 80 degrees. Also many of these manufacturers have contracts with F.E.M.A and have to follow there guidelines to be a vendor.

Are Civilian MRE’s as Good as Military MRE’s?
This is simply a matter of taste an what you are used to. There are several civilian MRE entree’s that I prefer over there military counterparts. The biggest advantage that you will find with military MRE entree’s is variety. You can buy 24 different MRE entree’s even though the selection of desserts and baked goods is limited to around 8 desserts and 4 baked goods (tortillas and breads) The reason we use military entree’s and civilian is so we can offer a larger variety of choices for our customers.

Are Military MRE’s Legal to Buy?
You will see many different sites that only sell civilian MRE’s that say it is illegal to buy a US issued MRE’s. That simply is not true. It is illegal for a soldier to sell a civilian a US issue MRE, but once it hits the market it is perfectly legal to sell. If it was illegal; then eBay and Amazon would not be selling them. They have been asked to stop before and told the government “NO”.

Can you always Trust Military MRE’s?
The answer here is no. When you buy from a seller on eBay they likely don’t know the history of that single MRE or MRE case. Many military MRE’s are acquired after field exercises and may have sat in the hot sun for days before being procured. When we manage to secure military MRE’s from time to time we always ask a lot of questions about storage. The reason we rarely have them on our website is we are not always convinced they are safe for our customers. If you see them, then know we are confident they are safe to eat for years to come.

Where do we Procure our Military MRE entree’s?
We buy our military MRE entree’s directly from manufacturers of military rations. The big three are Sopako, Ameriqual and Wornick. So rest assured when you receive a military MRE entrée in your Z-Ration or Prospector MRE that it was shipped from there storage facility to ours. The same goes for our civilian MRE entree’s.

How Old Are Your MRE Entree’s When You Get Them?
I wish I could say that all of our MRE entree’s were made last week, but that is not the way it works. The big three producers make millions of entree’s every year and when there is no demand for them from the government then they are released to commercial sales. This is when we are allowed to buy them. Sometimes they are only months old but mostly they are about a year old when we get them. We try to avoid older meals as best we can.