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MREs - How to Tell How Old They Are

Whether you have a whole case of MREs or just a single MRE, there are a number of ways to figure out how old they are.

MRE Cases

All MRE cases have some sort of date code on them that you can use to determine when they were packaged. A typical case will have both a packed date and an inspection date. The inspection date on MREs is usually three years after the packed date.

Here are a couple of cases of MREs with the date packed:

mre cases

Sometimes you'll have a nice date packed such "03/09/01" which you know to mean March 9, 2001. However, some cases will use a different form such as "1068". In this case, the first number "1" stands for the year (2001) and the next three numbers indicate which day of the year (365 days in a year) it was packed. So "068" would be day 68 of the year 2001...or March 9, 2001.

Individual MREs

MRE Components

Before we get into dating whole MREs, it'd be easier to explain how to date individual MRE components. Almost every component that goes into an MRE has a date code stamped on it in the form "0132" (see above explanation). Everything from entrees, crackers, peanut butter, accessory packs, etc. - they all have date codes. If you can open up your MRE, you should be able to figure out how old each piece is.

Here are some examples of date codes stamped on various MRE components:

Veggie crackers - date 0265 Regular crackers - date 9078 Back of an FRH - date 7226
mre-vegcrackers-date mre-crackers-date mre-heater-back
     
Accessory pack - date 9085 Entree - date 1139  
mre-accessory-packet-date mre-entree-date  
     
Cocoa package - date 8243 Peanut Butter - date 9348  
mre-cocoa-date mre-pb-date  

It can be more difficult to date individual unopened MREs because until 2003, date codes weren't stamped on the actual MRE bags themselves. Without actually opening the MRE bag and looking at the date codes stamped on the components, there are a few tricks you use.

Bag color

brown mre If the MRE bag is dark brown, that means your MRE is from 1995 or earlier. In 1996, they switched over to the tan-colored bags. To get a better idea of the MREs age, take a look at which MRE you have. If you have a #8 Ham Slice, you're out of luck because that could have come from 1990-1995. See this page for a complete list of MRE menus.

However, if you have a brown #4 Chili Macaroni, you're in luck - because that MRE was introduced in 1995 in a brown bag and every #4 Chili Macaroni after that (1996-2003) was packaged in a tan bag.

Similarly, if you have a brown #6 Chicken Ala King, you can tell from the menu list that the last time that MRE was used was 1992 - so yours could be from 1992 or earlier.

 

mres_two_tan

The same sort of theory works for the newer tan MREs. Look at which menu # the MRE is and then look at the menu listing to see if you can nail down a closer date.

For example, a tan #4 Ham Slice would have had to come from 1996-1998 because it was discontinued in 1998.

Another example would be a #22 Chicken and Salsa - that menu only appeared in 1998 - after that, Chicken and Salsa move to menu #7.