It's finally happening! Pizza MREs to hit shelves soon

Matt Saintsing
February 22, 2018 - 12:14 pm
mre

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Janiqua P. Robinson

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It’s finally here, and it’s no joke. For years now, the U.S. military has been asking for a pizza MRE without much progress. So much, in fact, that food scientists working to develop the latest pizza technology have called it the “holy grail” of meals, ready to eat.

Our pizza prayers have finally been answered.

Researchers at a U.S. military food lab in Massachusetts have finally cracked the code on a pizza recipe that doesn’t require refrigeration or freezing. The problem had previously been making a pizza that could have a three-year shelf life, as required by the Defense Department.

"You can basically take the pizza, leave it on the counter, packaged, for three years and it'd still be edible," Michelle Richardson, a food scientist at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center told CBS News.

Pizza has been one of the most requested meals when U.S. service members are asked what type of food they’d like to see when they cut open an MRE. Pizza MREs, expected to hit shelves next month, have been in the works for years, and have thrown some researchers for a loop.

One of the problems has been that the food’s moisture content needed to be lowered and its acidity had to be increased to kill off any bacteria that might try to make the slice its home. The devil was in the ingredients.

Cheese, like the scrumptious kinds you and I can buy at our local supermarkets, have too much moisture, so the team of researchers at Natick had to come up with a cheese-like product that could last the requisite three years.

Then, there’s the sauce.

Over time, pizza sauce would seep into the bread. To combat this, scientists added a tomato-flavored, carbohydrate-and starch-based “barrier” sandwiched between the delicious layers that make up the slice.

Natick has been working on this since 2012, and had delayed the product indefinitely citing issues with quality, not safety.

“We want to make sure we give [troops] a quality product,” Natick spokesman David Accetta told Army Times.

And, it isn’t exactly chalk-full of preservatives and chemicals no one has ever heard of. Part of the solution, while paying homage to pizza’s Italian roots, was natural rosemary extract.

MREs are a staple to feed a fighting force on the move, with each containing more than 1,200 calories. It’s packaging allows it to be safely airdropped via parachute from 100 feet and now, Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines can expect to see these MREs in the field by the end of 2018.