How To Read The Dates On MRE’S

Ever wonder how do you know how old your MRE’S really are?  Have you ever bough MRE”S on Amazon or Ebay and wonder if you just ordered a box of 25 year old MRE’S?  Here are a few quick pointers and a great indepth video to make sure you are on top of your MRE’S.

  1. All MRE”S have dates stamped or printed on all individually wraped componets
  2. All Boxes have a born on Date and an Inspected date.  Make sure they show you the born on date!
  3. The Inspection date is always 3 years after they are packaged
  4. The born on date is always a group of four numbers
  5. the four numbers break down as follows: The first number is the last number of the year it was created ie 7 would mean 2007 or 97. ( you can also tell what decade they are from based on packaging see graphics below). The last three numbers refer to the day of the year.  for exampl 234 would be on the 234th day of 2007.
  6. There are online calculators that allow you to enter these numbers and it translates the dates for you into month day and year.  Check it out at


MRE Bag Design


MRE Design Logo

MREs (Meals, Ready-to-Eat) were first introduced for use in the US military in 1981. Since then, the original simple brown MRE bag has undergone two major and several minor updates. The first major update occurred in 1996 and changed the color of the bag from dark brown to a tan color and introduced new bag graphics. Then in 2008, three new graphic designs for the MREs were set to be introduced while the bag color remained the same.

Legacy Food Storage

MRE Bag Design Changes

Here’s a timeline of the changes to the MRE bags::

1981: Original MRE bag introduced

1988: Large menu numbers added to the sides of the MRE bags

1995: Last year the dark brown MRE bags used

1996: New tan bags, fonts, and graphics introduced

2001: Two notices added to the bags: “U.S. Government Property” and “Commercial Resale Is Unlawful”

2003: New notice added to the bags: “Flameless Ration Heaters Are Prohibited On Commercial Airlines Unless Sealed In Original MRE Menu Bag”

2007: Last year for the old graphics

2008: Three new graphic designs introduced for MRE bags. Bag color remains tan.


MRE Bags Over the Years

1981: First MREs
1981: First MREs
1982 MRE
1986 MRE
1988: Menu numbers added to side
1995: Last year for brown bags
1988: Menu numbers added to side
1991 MRE
1995: Last year for brown bags
1996: New bag color, design
2001: Govt. Property, Resale notices
2007: Last year for current design?
1996: New bag color, design
2001: Govt. Property, Resale notices
2007: Last year for current design?

MRE Bag Design Specifications

Each year, the Defense Supply Center, Philadelphia (DSCP) publishes a new set of specifications for the production and packaging of MREs. These specs are called “Assembly Contract Requirements” or ACRs. Inside each ACR is a design of how the MRE bag is supposed to look. While color codes and spacing are specified, exact fonts to be used are not.

Here are a few of the most recent ACR specs for MRE bags:
2001 ACE Spec
2003 ACR Spec
2004+ ACR Spec

A note about Ameriqual:

Of the three major MRE manufacturers, Ameriqual is the only one who does not produce an MRE bag according to the ACR secs.

The picture underneath shows an Ameriqual MRE next to a Sopakco MRE. Notice how it has a repeating bag design, not just a single design per bag.

Ameriqual vs. Sopakco MREs



New 2008 MRE Bag Designs

In 2006, the US Army Natick Soldier RD&E Center began evaluating new graphic designs for the MRE bags. They started off with 18 new designs and weeded that list down to 9 designs. Further review brought the list down to 5 designs (as seen in “Design Testing” below) and those designs were “field tested” with soldiers to see which ones they preferred. Natick finally picked the three best designs and decided to use all three in the new MREs.

In the 2008 Assembly Contract Requirements, the DSCP specifies these three new graphic designs for the MRE bags. Each design will be on four MREs in each case. You can see the breakdown of the designs and which menus they will be on below:

Design #1

(Menus 1-4, 13-16 )

Design #2

(Menus 5-8, 17-20 )

Design #3

(Menus 9-12, 21-24)

2008 MRE Bag Design 1
MRE 2008 Bag Design 2
MRE 2008 Bag Design 3
Sample Bag
Sample Bag
Sample Bag
MRE 2008 Design 1 Sample Bag
MRE 2008 Design 2 Sample Bag
MRE 2008 Design 3 Sample Bag

New Design Testing

Five new designs were tested in late 2006:

2006 MRE Bag Test Design 12006 MRE Bag Test Design 22006 MRE Bag Test Design 32006 MRE Bag Test Design 42006 MRE Bag Test Design 5

How those designs scored compared to the current design:

Score board between previous MRE bag to design to current

Circled numbers indicate highest scores

Based on cost and the risk of off-set printing errors, the final designs were changed slightly from the test designs above to allow for the use of only one color. This is most noticeable in test case #5 in the word “MRE” and in the loss of the faded background on the other test cases.