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SSC-Natick Press Release

U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center-Natick
Public Affairs Office
Kansas Street
Natick, MA 01760-5012

Contact: Chief, Public Affairs Office
(508) 233-5340

Date: February 10, 2006
No: 06-06

Meal Cold Weather/Long Range Patrol menu revised to improve quality

NATICK, Mass. -- Nearly five years after the Meal, Cold Weather (MCW) and Food Packet, Long Range Patrol (LRP) merged into a single product, the subsequent 12 menus are now being revised.

Food technologists at the Natick Soldier Center’s Combat Feeding Directorate held their first field evaluation in a decade of current and new menu items under consideration with Soldiers from the 51st Infantry in Darmstadt, Germany.

More than 80 Long Range Surveillance troops from Company E agreed to evaluate the LRP during training in Grafenwohr, Germany, in June 2005. They tried all of the items as part of a recently-funded program by the military to improve assault/special-purpose rations, said Vicki Loveridge, a senior food technologist on the Individual Combat Ration Team.

“We’re trying to get some variety and take out products that are not doing well,” Loveridge said. “We really didn’t know the current relative acceptability of the menu items except for some of the components used in other rations.”

She said many of the Soldiers were experienced and familiar with the rations, which brought a seasoned perspective, but it’s taken a while for most troops to realize these types of rations are available. Orders increased during the second procurement of the Meal, Cold Weather/Long Range Patrol (MCW/LRP) from Soldiers and Marines serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“Anyone with a short-term, high-intensity mission where weight is critical or anyone who has a cold weather mission can order these for their use,” Loveridge said.

The MCW/LRP is procured as a single ration for ease of supply but each has a different purpose.

The Ration, Cold Weather was redesigned five years ago into the MCW. Contained in white packaging, the MCW is substituted for the Meal, Ready-to-Eat (MRE) that in the past leaked after freezing and thawing, and contributed to hypothermia and dehydration in cold weather climates.

Freeze-dried entrees joined other dried foods for 1,540 calories per package, issued at three packages per day to provide 4,620 calories of nutrition. Warfighters would have to consume four MREs to get an equivalent amount of calories. A full day’s ration is 1.5 pounds lighter than the MRE.

The MCW differs from the LRP in that sodium and protein content are controlled to decrease the need for water.

Loveridge said the merger of the two rations rescued the LRP from discontinuation. Wrapped in tan packaging, the LRP has only about a fifth of the production quantity of the MCW, but since they’re mostly the same, the costs are low enough to remain in production.

LRP rations go back to the 1960s, where they were popular among troops serving in Vietnam. They’re designed for troops during an initial assault, conducting special operations or on long-range reconnaissance patrol, and are without re-supply for up to 10 days. Issued at one package per day, the ration weighs a half pound less than the MRE and has enough extra calories to give them what is needed to survive.

Soldiers have said that at least once a day they feel full, filling up on the entree containing 500-600 calories.

“At a focus group at the end of evaluation, Soldiers were saying that the entree was too big,” said Loveridge. “I’d never heard that before.”

Unheated water can be poured into the pouch holding the entree, which can slow hydration, and consequently, the acceptability of rice entrees, she said. Heated or unheated, water requirements don’t change with dried foods.

“There’s a misconception that you need extra water for dehydrated rations,” Loveridge said. “You need a given amount of water per day depending on activity and temperature. Whether some of that comes in the food or is consumed separately, the water requirement is the same.”

The current or “control” menu for the evaluation was modified in 2003. Cereal bars, granola bars and peanut brittle were pulled because they didn’t meet minimum shelf life requirement of 80 degrees F for three years. Cappuccino, starch jellies, Combos, peanut butter M&Ms, chocolate sports bar, raisin nut mix, chocolate-covered cookie and fig bar were added to the menus.

This year’s test menu brought new entrees of freeze-dried chicken teriyaki, Mexican rice and chicken, seafood chowder and chili macaroni with beef.

Trail mix, and peanut butter and banana walnut dessert bars were taken from the developmental First Strike Ration. Chocolate peanut butter, pizza cheese spread, smoked almonds, dried-fruit cranberries, brown sugar toaster pastry and granola were adopted from the MRE. Corn nuts, Walnettos, granola cereal with blueberries, cran-raspberry HooAH! bars and a freeze-dried ice cream sandwich are commercial items new to any individual ration.

A strawberry dairy shake, and fruit, lemon-lime and orange-flavored sports drinks are the remaining changes. All drink mixes in the MCW/LRP will be packed in the new zippered drink pouch for easier consumption.

At the focus group, Loveridge introduced candy-coated chocolate-covered coffee beans, honey gel pouches and energy fruit chews to gauge their level of interest. She said the coffee beans went fast and likely will be offered in the next evaluation.

As for the overall evaluation, Loveridge said the egg entrees and granola cereal were especially popular. Pending results from the evaluation and decisions from the Joint Operational Rations Forum, an updated list of menus is expected by next year.

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This page last updated on 23 January 2004.