How Long Do MREs Last? [The Correct Answer You Must Know]

This article will teach you everything that you need to know about MREs’ shelf life, including tons of tips and techniques you can use to preserve your MRE.

MREs (Meals, Ready to Eat) provide a complete, pre-cooked meal that is ready to eat in any situation. MREs are rationed in sealed packaging lighter than a can and are proven to withstand abrupt drops and other impacts. 

MRE manufacturers designed these on-the-go meals for military usage. It may last for a long time as an army ration in the right circumstances. These aspects make the device appealing for storage outside of the army. 

Typically, MREs have a long shelf life. Their ready-to-eat quality makes them ideal for usage when camping, hunting, or in emergency circumstances where electricity and food are scarce. 

On the other hand, MREs do not have a specific expiration date, which raises how long MREs last.

Let’s dig in and get informed on everything there is about MREs.

MRE with sample serving

The companies that make MREs designed them to resist harsh circumstances, but they aren’t indestructible. The packets are simple to open, and a careless rip might cause one to be unfit for consumption.

MREs are especially sensitive to temperature. Therefore their storage conditions have an impact on how long they can survive. At 75 degrees Fahrenheit, an MRE will stay for nearly five years.

This temperature and shelf-life impact is the same time frame when the military rotates and replaces MRE stock (on Amazon). This timescale, however, only applies if the storage temperature remains constant at 75° F over the whole five-year period.

Consequently, the shelf life of an MRE is reduced at higher temperatures, although you can extend it at lower temperatures. An MRE stored at 120° F, for example, will only survive a month, but certain MREs can be good for up to 10 years if kept under consistent cooler settings.

Depending on the temperature, you may look at MRE shelf life tables to see how long an MRE will survive. Keep an eye out for schematics that aren’t up to speed with current MRE production specifications.

Also, keep in mind that temperature changes affect longevity. Again, an MRE discovered in 75° F storage won’t last five years if you previously stored it in temperatures closer to 90° F.

Manufacturing and Expiration Dates

MRE package with manufacturing date code

Unlike most other foods, MREs do not have an expiration date. Because the shelf life of MREs varies depending on the storage temperature, MRE factories label them with a number that shows the manufacturing date.

But, if the date were in a straightforward day month year format, it would be easy to determine when your MRE is valid. However, that is not the case.

Indeed, when you browse through the sachets, you may see a variety of codes and numbers. It also doesn’t help that the manufacturing date isn’t in a standard place in the package.

The manufacturer code comprises the first and final digits, despite printed as a single number. The first digit reflects the year of manufacture’s final number while the last three digits represent the year’s day out of 365.

Consider the following scenario: you have an MRE with the code 4170. The last number of the MRE’s production year, 2014, would be shown by the four. The 170 would subsequently mean June 19, the 170th day. When you put it together, the MRE’s production date was June 19, 2014.

3365 corresponds to December 31, 2013, whereas 0007 corresponds to January 7, 2010. Because an MRE has a five-year average shelf life, multiply the manufacturer’s year by five to get the estimated expiry date.

One important note is that production dates only show the year’s final number. In the example above, an MRE with 4170 may be from June 19, 2004, or 1994 rather than 2014. When buying MREs, look for other factors such as bag color to indicate when you made the food.

If you buy MREs in bulk, keep a note of the year you purchased them, so you don’t mix up when your items are still good and when they expire due to a misinterpretation of the year date.

Indicators of Time-Temperature

Indicators of Time-Temperature

On the packaging of certain MREs is a freshness indication. The symbol varies depending on the MRE package’s temperature to serve as an accurate readout.

Everything within the box should be fresh and ready to eat as long as the middle circle has a lighter hue than the outside ring.

You can refer to the below guide to help you determine the freshness of the package you have on hand.

Time-Temperature Indicator Legend

How Long Do MREs Last?

Unpacked MRE sachets

Because of all the variables that might determine how long an MRE lasts, the answer to “How long do MREs last?” is difficult to give and isn’t as straightforward as figuring out when the average expiration date is, if you can call that process simple at all.

Projected expiry dates are frequently earlier than actual food deterioration, and MREs are no exception. Based on tests, the benchmark of an MRE lasting five years includes how long the meal is consumable and how it tastes over time.

The quality of an MRE’s taste will deteriorate with time, similar to canned food items. It will also reduce the nutritional value. However, just because an MRE has beyond its anticipated expiration date does not mean it is worthless.

Many MRE users have stated that they could consume MREs that were ten years old or older and, in some cases, nearly twenty, although the flavor wasn’t great.

Because MREs are essentially emergency rations (on Amazon), you’re unlikely to consume them for taste. Also, the older an MRE gets, the fewer vitamins and other nutritional value it has; yet, an old MRE can still supply calories if you’re in a dilemma.

Most meals and desserts will keep up nicely over time, but specific other components may not. Peanut butter, applesauce, and cheese spread are some of the more amazing foods that degrade in older MREs.

Lastly, you have to decide what you’re prepared to risk eating from an older MRE when it comes down to it. In an emergency, you might not have much choice. Even if the scenario doesn’t need it, it’s advisable to consume older MRE stock as a general rule to avoid wasting money.

Last Words

Finally, it’s difficult to predict when MRE may not be suitable for consumption. Please look up the expiration date on your bag and test it out. If it tastes like plastic, it has an odd aftertaste, smells awful, and you should avoid eating it.

Even after five years in storage, you might be astonished by how good MRE dinners are. These small packets may last much longer with proper storage practices and some common sense usage behaviors from people who know more than we do.

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