According to the Natick Soldier Research Development & Engineering Center, American soldiers eat a variety of fresh, refrigerated, frozen, canned and preserved foods, depending on local conditions and supply availability. One of the mainstays of the military nutrition system is the Meal, Ready-to-Eat, or MRE, a shelf-stable ration preserved in retort pouches that provides around 1,250 calories per meal.
For large scale feeding, the military uses the Unitized Group Ration, pre-packaged ingredients designed to create one meal for 50 people. UGR-A contains frozen and perishable goods and is the highest quality ration, while UGR-B contains dehydrated foods to save on weight. Other forms of the UGR contain shelf-stable and ready-to-eat items for quick service. MREs are commonly used for soldiers in the field who may find themselves away from traditional cafeteria facilities, and the Meal, Cold Weather/Long Range Patrol variation contains dehydrated food and other products that resist freezing. Personnel facing the prospect of staying on the move for long periods of time may be issued the First Strike Ration, a 24-hour meal pack containing nothing but ready-to-eat items and designed to give an active soldier all the nutrition necessary for combat without the necessity of stopping to prepare a meal.