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You are What the US Military Eats

Whether you are reaching for those addictive processed cheese snacks you’re ashamed to admit you love, meal replacement bars on which to snack, or deli meats to make a sandwich, you might be surprised to learn that you are chomping on the fruits of scientific research conducted by the US military.

As NPR reports, a new book details the ways in which the military has influenced the consumption patterns of American civilians. Author Anastacia Marx de Salcedo estimates that as much as 50% of the items in our modern-day supermarkets are derived from the cutting-edge research of army labs studying how to make combat rations taste better and last longer. The hub of all this scientific research is in Massachusetts at the Natick Soldier Systems Center, a US Army research complex.

Now, it certainly makes sense for the military to be working on improving combat rations, but what’s the connection between servicemen and consumers? It goes back to policy after World War II regarding preparedness. The military needs to ensure that in time of war and emergency, its partners can readily convert to production of rations. The military also tackles huge food science questions because it has both the need and the resources to do so on a scale that even industrial food producers don’t.

So what’s the next big development on the military’s horizon? That would be shelf-stable pizzas AND sandwiches that can sit in your kitchen cupboard just like a can of soup. Says Marx de Salcedo, “The military is moving to a system where they want to reduce or eliminate regular hot meals like breakfast, lunch, and dinners. Instead, they’d just provide day-long grazing options for soldiers.” Can we say #mindblowing? Well… just as long as we’re not in for a Charleston Heston moment:

Feature Photo Credit: “A scaterring of yellow goldfish crackers” by Tiger Images | Shutterstock

Johnisha Levi

Johnisha Levi is a Boston-area pastry cook and one of those very rare (think Pegasus) D.C. natives. If ithere's a documentary on food or true crime, chances are that she's seen it (or it's waiting in her Netflix queue). She's a culinary history nerd who is eager to spend her summer at culture learning more about cheese.