Next time you’re settling in for dinner take a look at what’s on your plate... chicken, beef, a sprout or two? Maybe some carbohydrates like bread and mashed potatoes with gravy? Now think about how different your daily meal would be if you were in the army.

Army field rations differ from country to country — some consist of much the same as a regular meal albeit in a less-appealing, dehydrated, vacuum-sealed package; others contain a few home comforts like liver sausage spread for German troops or little cans of cassoulet with duck confit for the French. The traditional duck-fat laden dish has been a favorite of the French armed forces for generations… generals believed a few bites would give their troops an edge on the battlefield. The decadent four-course combat meal was hearty enough to sustain the Frenchmen but tasty enough to satisfy their picky palates.

The earliest garrison rations for the United States Army, for about a century after 1776, were an all-inclusive meal of meat, bread, and vegetables. Civil War rations were increased, allowing for bread, salted meat, beans, rice, and a pound of potatoes per man were issued three times a week. Today, the army is offered A-rations (fresh food prepared on-site), B-rations (unit-sized packaged trays usually heated by immersion), ready-to-eat meals(MRE’s), and first-strike rations (designed to be eaten on the move).

Understandably, the food troops request the most is pizza, which is a little difficult to whip up on the battlefield. But researchers at a U.S. military laboratory are determined to give it a shot and say they’re close to perfecting a dehydrated pizza which will stay fresh for three years without being frozen — options include cheese, pepperoni and turkey-pepperoni.

When you look at army rations these days it’s interesting to see what all those sealed, nondescript packets contain. While each sealed package looks similar, the contents can vary dramatically. Here’s a closer look at what some of the world’s armies are eating in the field.

1. Canada



The Canadian ration pack contains a choice between vegetarian couscous or salmon fillet in Tuscan sauce for the main meal, Bear Paw snacks, and the ingredients to make a peanut-butter and jelly (raspberry jam) sandwich for breakfast. Perhaps surprisingly, there is no maple syrup included in the pack.

2. Australia



Of all the ration packs, the Australian one has the most tiny-packaged treats, most of which are parceled by the military. The myriad bags contain jam sandwiches, Vegemite, Fonterra- processed cheddar cheese, two “chocolate-ration” bars, sweets, soft drinks, a tube of sweetened condensed milk, and main meals of chili and tuna pasta.

3. Spain



The Spanish pack has a little disposable heater with matches and fuel tabs for heating or cooking the individually packaged meals, as well as a lot of vitamins including glucose sachets, vitamin C, and water purification and rehydration tablets. The food is a Mediterranean mix of squid in vegetable oil, cans of ham and green beans, and packets of powdered vegetable soup. For dessert there are peaches in syrup.

4. Germany



German soldiers are offered sour cherry and apricot jam for breakfast. Also in the pack are several envelopes of grapefruit and exotic-juice powder to add to water, a sachet of Italian biscotti, and the familiar treat of liver-sausage spread with rye bread. The main meal is goulash with potatoes.

5. France



Aside from the traditional cassoulet with duck confit, the French pack also contains deer pâté, creole-style pork, and crème chocolate pudding. There is also instant coffee and some flavored drink powder to add to water. Breakfast is muesli with a little Dupont d’Isigny caramel. Also included is a tiny disposable heater to warm the meals before eating.

See more army food from around the world.

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