Ever wished your morning cup of coffee tasted a bit meatier? Consider joining the military. An Army laboratory in Natick, Mass., is infusing beef jerky with a coffee cup's worth of caffeine to give soldiers a jolt with their protein. The snack, which looks like a Slim Jim, is part of new initiative to make portable meals more appealing and nutritious. Here's what you should know:
Why is the Army doing this?
Although the Army already offers service men and women a version of instant Irish-cream coffee, it must be brewed with hot water, not always the most feasible option when you're in a war zone. The beef jerky is light, portable, and ready to eat. No cream or sugar required.
Who's responsible for this?
Experts at the Natick Soldier Research, Development & Engineering Center, a little-known facility outside Boston that creates the Army's field rations, known as MREs — perhaps "the most complained about food in the world," says Christian Davenport at The Washington Post. Durable MREs must have a three-year shelf life in up to 80 degree weather, and be able to survive a drop from an airplane. Obviously, MREs aren't just thrown together on a whim. "There is a lot of science that goes into this," says Natick spokesperson David Acetta. "It's not a bunch of cooks in the kitchen making recipes."
What does MRE stand for?
"Meal, Ready to Eat." Unimpressed soldiers have come up with a variety of other interpretations, however, including: Meals Refused by Everyone, Meals Rejected by the Enemy, Materials Resembling Edibles, and Meals Refusing to Exit.
What other improvements are in the works?
The military is looking to give its MRE program a "gourmet makeover," says Nadia Gilani at Britain's Daily Mail. There's a turbo-charged applesauce loaded with maltodextrin — a complex carbohydrate that gives soldiers an energy boost — appropriately dubbed "Zapplesauce." Other recent additions include chicken and pesto pasta, ratatouille, garlic mashed potatoes, and even a strawberry-banana dairy shake. According to Natick's Jeremy Whitslitt: "Nothing takes out a battalion of soldiers quicker than bad food."