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1986 MRE #12 - Ground Beef with Spiced Sauce

Date: 20 August 2009
Author: kman

I recently picked up a partial case (10 out of 12) of 1986 MREs. MREs first replaced MCIs in 1981 and that first generation of MREs ran from 1981 to 1985. So this 1986 case represents the second of what would eventually be many generations of Meals, Ready to Eat.

The first MRE up for review is the first one I grabbed out of the case - Menu #12 - Ground Beef with Spiced Sauce. Let's see how this 23 year old MRE has held up!


Here's the case and its contents - packed in July, 1986:
1986 MRE Case 1986 MRE Case Contents

And here's MRE #12 and its contents - looks like a tasty menu:

Ground Beef with Spiced Sauce
Freeze dried fruit
Chocolate covered cookie
Peanut Butter
Menu #12 Menu #12 Contents
The "Pouch Stand" in the second picture is unique - those were only included in the 1986 MREs.

Here's the "Beef, Ground, with Spiced Sauce". My first thought was "the finest Army Alpo!" because it really does look like something straight from a can of dog food. But it didn't smell bad and a small spoonful showed it tasted fine.
Ground beef entree Ground beef entree Ground beef entree Ground beef entree
After three or four bites, however, I started to notice a distinct "greasy" feeling in my mouth. If you can make out the fourth picture above, you can see where I cut open a chunk of beef and it looks pretty fatty. Maybe the fat had separated over time or maybe it was me eating this "cold", not heated - but I didn't much care for the greasy texture so I stopped my taste testing there.

MRE Crackers and Peanut Butter - a true "staple" of MREs. The crackers weren't as fresh and "crispy" as new MRE crackers but one thing was definitely different - these crackers were salted! Newer MRE crackers aren't salted like "Saltines" but these were and it definitely improved the crackers' normally bland taste. As for the crispiness, even though the crackers were a bit firm, they reminded me of some European ration crackers (biscuits). Very good stuff! The peanut butter packet felt pretty squishy but after a minute of kneading, the oil seemed to get mixed back in and when I finally opened it, the peanut butter tasted normal.
Crackers and Peanut Butter Crackers and Peanut Butter

This is the freeze-dried "Fruit Mix". The instructions say, "Eat dry or reconstitute in cold water. To reconstitute, cover fruit with water. Let soak until soft." I followed the directions and let it soak for about 15 minutes. After that time (in the fifth picture below), the fruit looked reconstituted but it really didn't have any taste - nothing sweet, just an unflavored texture - like I knew I was eating a bit of pineapple but there was no taste to it. Freeze-dried Fruit Mix Freeze-dried Fruit Mix Freeze-dried Fruit Mix Freeze-dried Fruit Mix Freeze-dried Fruit Mix

The "Cookie Bar, Chocolate Covered"!! This is truly one of the best MRE desserts (in my opinion). Even better, these puppies hold up over time. This one was fresh as the day it was packed, back during Ronald Reagan's second term as President!
Chocolate Covered Cookie Bar Chocolate Covered Cookie Bar Chocolate Covered Cookie Bar Chocolate Covered Cookie Bar

Finally, here's the accessory pack. Not much has changed in the past 23 years with these. They still include freeze-dried coffee, creamer, sugar, salt, chewing gum, matches, and an amazingly tiny amount of what they want you to use for toilet paper:
Accessory Pack Accessory Pack Accessory Pack

Overall Review

Overall, if I had to eat this MRE for an actual meal and my survival depended upon it, I think I could eat it. The main entree of Ground Beef was pretty greasy tasting but I might be able to choke it down if it were warmed up or if I were very hungry enough.