As we gather with family and friends for Thanksgiving, USDA would like to thank our troops for their dedication to protecting our country and for the sacrifices they make to preserve our freedom.
Here at USDA, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) military food inspection program has a special way of thanking our troops—by doing our part to bring the comforts of home, including Thanksgiving dinner, to the men and women out in the field.
At food processing plants across the country and at headquarters in Washington, D.C., our award-winning inspectors and staff are inspecting foods used in Department of Defense combat rations. The troops depend on these rations for nourishment as they serve our country. Our inspectors perform a number of services including taste testing products and inspecting product packaging to ensure that only quality foods meeting the military’s strict requirements enter this program. Through a close relationship with the Department of Defense, we know what is required for the rations and inspect and certify that products headed to the front lines meet military requirements and will meet the troops’ expectations.
Of course we aren’t doing this work alone. We work closely with the Natick Soldier Systems Command, the Research and Development Associates for Military Food and Packaging Systems and other groups involved in the rations program. Our joint contributions help make sure that the items on the menu meet changing soldier preferences, account for regional favorites and, when possible, bring some home-style favorites to their meals. There are currently 24 different menus for the Meal, Ready-to-Eat (MRE) program, offering soldiers individual portions they can eat when in combat areas. These menus include a variety of foods like spaghetti with meat sauce and chicken fajitas. Soldiers can heat their MREs with a self-contained ration heater, giving them the ability to have a hot meal anytime, anywhere.
For Thanksgiving the tradition of breaking bread together and sharing a meal is just as important as the foods on the menu. With unitized group rations, several soldiers can share a meal together with traditional foods like turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes. One option for these rations comes in a self-heating format that can provide a group of soldiers with a hot meal in remote areas where dining facilities can’t be set up.
We take great pride in making sure that our soldiers can enjoy eating quality foods regardless of their surroundings. Our goal is to make sure that the products we inspect and certify meet the military’s requirements and allow the troops to enjoy some of the comforts of home and the option to share family-style meals whenever possible.
We hope that the holiday meals we help deliver provide our troops with a little taste of home and help them enjoy a safe and happy Thanksgiving.