MRE Comparison: MRE Star Vs Western Frontier Warfighter

 

 

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There is a lot of interest in MREs. I am going to try to compare a few over the next few months so that you can see a little more of what you might get. This post is going to show you the vast difference between actual military MREs and ones that are made for the civilian market.

Western Frontier Warfighter Menu 7

This is an actual for government use only MRE I found at a local discount grocery store. It was a mere $4 despite having a few years left before expiration.

I have to point out how well-sealed this MRE is. Not only is the outer bag very thick and well sealed, but there is also an inner wrapper and seal for added protection from moisture, rips, tears, and impacts.

What you get:

Beef Brisket Slices and Gravy Entree 210 calories

Au Gratin Potatoes Side 180 calories

Twizzlers Nibs 220 calories

Sterling Foods Chocolate Chunk Cookie TFF 280 calories

Sterling Foods White Wheat Snack Bread TFF 190 calories

Fortified Peanut Butter 250 calories

Grape Jelly 70

2 packets Irish Cream Coffee in pouches you can drink from 2 @ 120 calories=240 calories

Raspberry Beverage Packet for 20 oz water 5 calories

Total 1420 calories so someone working hard would need two of these and maybe more.

Other Things Included

Toilet Paper

Big Salt Packet

Spoon

Gum

This was actually a decent and filling meal for an emergency if you don’t mind a lot of sugar and salt. Of course, if you are really hungry anything is going to taste good.

Matt and I both thought the snack bread, peanut butter, and jelly were good. The peanut butter has additional vitamins in it so that you have what you need in the bush.

I really wish I could have eaten the whole cookie. It was actually really good but I cannot eat a bunch o of wheat products. That doesn’t mean I didn’t taste it and wish I could have split it with Matt. It is a big cookie but it was broken when we opened it. I expected it to be really crumbly though considering that it is made to last a long time.

This was salty but filling and good at the same time. I actually felt like this was enough calories to keep me on my feet for quite some time. Like any preserved potato product that is precooked, there was a bit of starchy and grainy texture to the potatoes but the manufacturer made up for that by ensuring there was plenty of cheese sauce. The beef brisket and gravy were pretty gelatinous but there really is slices of beef in all that gravy.
I had a few extra crackers because I can just taste test the ones made from wheat but not actually eat them due to wheat sensitivity. Matt and I ate the entree pretty fast. It was better tasting than I expected for a highly processed food.
The raspberry beverage packet is similar to Crystal Light. It has artificial sweeteners in it which is good to know if you are sensitive to those. You receive enough to flavor 20 oz of water but the flavor is strong enough that you could stretch it out for a quart of water or more and it would help cover up any strange flavors. Remember that filtered or treated water can have some flavors to it that you may find objectionable so something to cover it up can be helpful when out in the bush.

MRE Star

Beef Stew With Potatoes and Carrots 290 calories

Military Crackers 170 calories

Orange Drink Mix 90 calories

Hot Sauce

Salt

Pepper

Wet Napkin

Spoon and regular napkin

Candy

Hot Sauce

550 calories

The beef stew entree tasted as good as any commercially canned stew. It reminded me a lot of Dinty Moore or a similar brand. You can clearly see individual pieces of veggies and meat when you open it and serve it. MREs are designed so that you can eat them right out of the pouch but we poured our entrees onto plates for the purpose of this comparison article.
Good but not enough of it to get me through a lot of the day.
On left is the crackers included with the MRE Star and on the right is the shortbread that was included in the Warfighter. The crackers in the more expensive MRE Star were fairly bland and stale tasting. They were similar to a saltless table cracker. I tried to give them to my dog twice and she refused to eat them. To me, it is always a bad sign when my dog will not consume something. The shortbread from the Warfighter MRE tasted pretty good and it was packaged with a moisture absorber which undoubtedly helped maintain the quality over the years it has been sealed up in the MRE.
The orange drink mix came in the MRE Star while the dark purple Raspberry drink mix came in the Warfighter MRE. I liked the Raspberry better since it had more flavor and could be used in a larger volume of water. The orange was kind of bland so I don’t feel like I could add it to more than a pint of water without it tasting too watered down .

Calorie Count: 550 versus 1420!

First of all the amount of calories is ridiculously different. The price of the MRE Star is very high for what you get. My cost was $7.50+ tax for a single MRE. There may be a little discount if you get a case.

If a person is working hard then they would need 4-5 of these to keep their body condition. That is not a good deal for those trying to put back food.

The actual military Warfighter MRE has enough calories that you would only need two of them to get through a day in most cases. I managed to get the Warfighter MRE on discount for $3.99 which is an amazing deal. I found the Warfighter MREs on Amazon. Please follow this link for the current pricing for a 24 meal case. As you will be able to see, they are a much better deal than the MRE Stars.

The important extras in an MRE can make a big difference in your quality of life

One of the big differences between the two MREs was that the Warfighter included items like gum and toilet paper that could help morale out in the field. Toilet paper is something that you really miss when you don’t have it. The MRE Star brand just contains a wet wipe and a tiny napkin.

Hygiene is important to your health so the extra toilet paper, wet wipe, and gum in the Warfighter could help out in that area. While gum is no replacement for brushing your teeth, a sugar-free gum like that included can help clean them at least some. A wet wipe can be used to wash off with and having enough toilet paper can prevent a variety of problems.

The Warfighter MRE tasted quite salty but they also included a large salt packet while the MRE Star just had a packet similar to what you get in take out food containers.

While we both considered the entrees from both plenty salty for us, it is important to remember that when you are sweating a lot and times are tough, you may need a lot of salt. Having some extra salt on hand could make a big difference when your body is under stress. Also if you find other food to eat or forage for food, extra salt could help improve the flavor.

MRE Star includes a very small salt pack while the Warfighter contains a lot of extra salt that might come in handy at times.

Coffee

The MRE Star had no caffeinated beverage. The Warfighter MRE included two cups of Irish Cream flavored coffee. The flavor is quite sweet and not what I am used to for sure but it would be a lot better than nothing. Having a little caffeine to help with fatigue can be very helpful.

Manufacture dates and codes

The MRE Star simply said it was good for up to 5 years if kept sealed. That is fine but I could not find any manufacturing date or expiration date stamp on the package. So how long is 5 years? Was the MRE made in 2018 or 2019? I could not find a way to see how much shelf life was left at the time of purchase.

The Warfighter MRE has a stamped code that you can look up online to see when it was manufactured. While a simple date would be easier, at least there is something I can go by to determine how much shelf life is left on my discount MRE. Without a date or stamp, I would be hesitant to buy any food in quantity for storage or SHTF.

It is important to note that MREs technically do not expire, they just go down in quality. Just because an MRE is past the recommended shelf life doesn’t mean it is not okay to eat. There have been many cases where people have eaten war ration foods many years after the recommended date.

How you store MREs is a major factor in how well they maintain quality and how long they will last. Too high temperatures, as well as freezing temperatures, can all have a negative impact on your shelf life.

Here is a chart that will help give you an idea about how big of a role temperature plays in the shelf life of your MRE. These are just guidelines.

Always check dates and codes before purchasing

If you run into a good deal on MREs you should take the time to double-check the date of manufacture. You can get some exceptional deals sometimes but part of the reason for this can be that the MREs are an older manufacture date so technically they have less shelf life.

I am not saying that it is not worth it to buy them necessarily, just that you should use them up faster and make sure you are getting a good enough price to make up for the fact that they are older.

Here is a link to a code checker so you can verify dates. There should be a stamped code at the end of your MRE.

My experience using MRE heaters

This comparison is my first time using MRE heaters. Both MREs had the same heater or so it seems. While the instructions say to give them 10-15 minutes to heat your food, I think that is awfully hopeful. In the case of the Warfighter MRE, the entrees were so large it was hard to fit them in the heater. I have to say that the larger the entrees, the longer you can expect it to take.

After 15 minutes the food in both the Warfighter and the MRE Star was lukewarm. It will take the cold edge off but if you want your food really hot before you eat it, you are going to be waiting a while. Maybe I did it wrong or just got impatient. I will be trying out others and making a note of the results of heating entrees.

Personally, if I was in a rough situation, I might not even bother using a heater unless it was so cold outside that I really needed to add some heat to a very cold MRE.

A trick that Matt read about for heating up an MRE when it is sunny and a bit warm is to just leave the entrees in the thick plastic coating and sit it in the sun to warm. Solar energy can heat up an entree pretty fast. Consider how hot the water in your garden hose is after laying in the sun for a short period of time and you will see how well this could work.

Conclusion: So far, civilian MREs appear to be a bit of a rip off that do not provide adequate calories or value. I cannot justify spending nearly $8 on 550 calories. Perhaps some of the other MRE Stars contain more but they would have to do a lot better for me to even consider them for any emergency. I have some other MRE Stars to test that are packaged more similarly to the Warfighter MREs. I am hopeful that these will be better even though they cost about the same as the MRE Star we taste-tested in this post.

I would advise either making your own fast meals to seal up or making an effort to find true military MREs. I will be testing out other MREs in the future and showing you how to put together your own MRE style rations.

For those on specialized diets or that have food allergies, I don’t recommend a lot of MREs. These are made with ingredients that a lot of people are sensitive too. In the MREs we tested for this post there was a significant amount of salt, sugar, peanuts, wheat, soy, etc. If you are not used to eating typical commercial foods and ingredients, it will probably take some time for you to adjust to the diet change if you have to eat MREs for any length of time.

The day of and the day after we tested these we didn’t feel that great. The meals were very salty, particularly the Warfighter Beef Brisket Slices and Au Gratin potatoes. We had parched mouths all night and they made us bloated. I imagine some of these symptoms would go away after we adjusted to eating this way.

Do you have any MRE recommendations? Have you had any luck with non-US Military MREs? If you are on a specialized diet, have you found any varieties that are compatible with your diet?

 

 

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Updated Aug 14, 2019

15 Responses to “MRE Comparison: MRE Star Vs Western Frontier Warfighter”

  1. Learning about emergency food……what are the best resources? thinking about purchasing and recommending.

    Reply
  2. Very cool, haven’t seen real MREs reviewed and compared.

    Both actually sound like best for desperately hungry folks.😕

    Reply
  3. Interesting how your 8 fingers in the top photo are displayed 1+3 and then 1+3 opposing.

    Reply
    • Just keeping fingers out of the way to display the packages. No hidden meaning. What are you implying my fingers are telling you?

  4. Having eaten more than my fair share of MRE’s while in the military I can attest they filling, full of calories and convenient but can turn your guts into concrete if eaten for several days straight. I recommend that anyone who plans to eat MRE’s in a long term survival situation also stock a supply of stool softener to prevent constipation which can lead to severe intestinal infection and possible death.

    Reply
  5. Good information, very informative. Reading the article, it was obvious that you spent quite a lot of time and effort to make a fair comparison. And FYI, in the early ’70s I ate quite a lot of C-Rations that were packaged not long after WWII. Almost all were pretty good, but the one that I’ll always remember was a can of peaches. They tasted like they were put up the week before; delicious.

    Reply
  6. Does anyone have gluten free MRE’s or survival food?

    Reply
    • I am going to do an article on making custom MREs that are gluten free. I am not aware of any commercial ones at this time.

    • Valley Food Storage has a lot of different foods available. Many of them are gluten free.

  7. You have to remember have active soldiers are, They are moving from sun up to sun set. They are sweating the whole time. So they need the salt that is in the MRE. When I was in the military every time we went out in the field, they would give use two MRE’s for each day that we were out. MRE’s have changed a lot over the years.

    Reply
  8. Good stuff.

    Reply
  9. The advantage of being retired military is shopping at the commissary (when I’m close to one). We can get the Warfighter meals as a single (not by the case). I keep a few around for travels and hunting season.

    Reply
  10. Very good, although I’ve a few MRE’s from a friend who was in the military many years ago (I only have one left over) to try out from time to time. I went into looking at what is the best as a back up for my bug-out trailer an BOB bag. If you haven’t looked into Mountain House you should. There easy to find in most outdoor stores an at Wally-World (walmart). That company was the original makers for the military MRE’s during WW II. They claim to have a 20 to 25 year self life and more of a verity of en-trays.

    Reply
  11. The Warfighter MRE’s have the chewing gum for a very important reason: it contains a laxative.

    The gum is necessary to avoid the plugged up feeling you experience when eating these MRE’s. Also hydrating throughout the day helps.

    Samantha – – Well done ! Enjoyed your article!

    Reply
  12. Samantha, hope you keep us posted about the possibility of making our own MREs or high calorie/ high protein bars. There are so many people that have dietary restrictions who might benefit from some way to pick and choose what goes into instant meals.

    Recently, we received 2 Mountain House entrees per person, so we had 4 meals to share. We wanted to evaluate for taste, not so much for calorie content. We each took a couple of bites of the egg and hash brown breakfast and threw the rest out–terrible taste and bad texture–but might have finished the entree if we were starving. Biscuits and gravy were a little like glue but fairly tasty. Stroganoff and the rice dish were pretty bad too. All the MREs were so high in salt we couldn’t have eaten the whole thing, let alone 5 per day needed to get enough calories. In fairness we have been on a low salt, low sugar diet for years so other people might not object to the sodium content as much as we did. For flavor, I prefer Top Ramen for something compact and fast. You can make 2-4 packages with only 1-2 flavor packets to reduce the sodium. Unfortunately they are inadequate for long term as there are not enough calories or nutrition and they go rancid rapidly. But for short term Ramen might work.

    Reply

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