Independence Day 2023: How Indian Soldiers Eat, Exploring MREs

It’s a common saying – usually attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte – that ‘an army marches on its stomach’, and through the course of history it’s been proven that well-fed troops are the cornerstone of victory. As we celebrate the 76th Indian Independence Day, many people's thoughts turn to the troops, both past and present who bravely won India's freedom and continue to defend the nation. For contemporary troops in India and beyond, sustenance usually comes in the form of MREs meaning ‘Meals, Ready-to-Eat’ which were developed in the 1980s by the US military. Today, India has its own development process and is making great strides in the arena of nutrition for the troops. 

Since India is a country that prides itself on excellent food, it stands to reason that its troops are fed accordingly and at the Defence Food Research Laboratory (DFRL) in Mysore they are spearheading developments in groundbreaking solutions known as Meals-Ready-to-Eat (MRE) Ration technology.

During combat, safeguarding food items from both physical and chemical deterioration throughout storage, transportation, and handling becomes a critical mission. The packaging and arrangement of operational rations used during logistical periods must align with three key considerations: operational meal patterns, weight and volume limitations, and material availability

The production of Ready-to-Eat (RTE) foods involves a meticulous process. Utilising a specially designed bulk steriliser, each batch is subjected to careful monitoring, ensuring a microbiologically and chemically safe product.  DFRL's MRE Ration technology centres around a remarkable blend of innovations, including Retort pouch processed foods, shelf-stable, preservative-free chapatis, and survival rations, all tailored to meet the operational needs of the Army and Navy. The menus include but are not limited to Sooji Halwa, Chicken Biryani, Kebab, Tandoori Paneer, Dal Makhani, Jeera Rice, Rajma Curry, and Vegetable Pulao. Thanks to thermal processing, these contents are not only preserved but also readily consumable with minimal warming if desired.

The survival ration component of this innovation addresses immediate nutritional requirements of armed forces during operations. It includes energy-dense soft bars and delightful chikkis made from groundnuts, combined with jaggery or sugar. The survival ration configuration comprises two 100g soft bars, three 50g sugar-based chikkis, and three 50g jaggery-based chikkis. To enhance shelf life, the chikkis are vacuum-sealed in laminated pouches, preserving their quality for over a year under ambient conditions.

Remarkably, the Indian MRE stands shoulder-to-shoulder with internationally renowned rations, such as the USA's MRE and the UK's GP-24, in terms of nutritional quality and hygienic standards. With a shelf life of 12 months under ambient conditions, the ration delivers a total calorific value of 3300 Kcal, effectively meeting immediate nutritional requirements during operations.

The development of Meals-Ready-to-Eat (MRE) Ration technology by the Defence Food Research Laboratory (DFRL) represents a significant milestone in military nutrition. Through innovative packaging, advanced processing, and a focus on nutritional value, this technology ensures that armed forces receive the sustenance they need, even in challenging operational scenarios. This groundbreaking solution not only aligns with international standards but also underscores India's commitment to excellence in both military and food technology realms.