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.
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.
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."
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."