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Soldiers with the 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment at Ft. Greely, Alaska, test out potential MREs for the Natick Soldier Center.

Soldiers with the 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment at Ft. Greely, Alaska, test out potential MREs for the Natick Soldier Center. (Photo Courtesy of Natick Soldier Center)

ARLINGTON, Va. — American troops around the world: Your fellow soldiers in Alaska came through for you. The 2008 Meals, Ready-to-Eat won’t include stuffed cabbage.

According to the people with the never-ending job of modifying MREs — the food scientists in the Combat Feeding Directorate at the Natick Soldier Center in Massachusetts — the cabbage didn’t make the cut.

So to speak.

Every year, the Natick food scientists pack up several truckloads of food and bring it all to the field, where troops on combat exercises are given the chance to taste-test the selections.

The testers for the annual field evaluation score potential menu items on a scale of 1 to 9.

Items that make the cut must receive an average score of 6 or higher, according to Judy Aylward, a senior food technologist and project officer for the Fielded Individual Ration Improvement Program.

The most recent round of tests was held in September 2005 at Fort Greely, Alaska, where about 400 soldiers sank their teeth into 38 new items, including … stuffed cabbage, Aylward said Tuesday.

“It was a really good product, with tomato sauce and ground beef,” Aylward said. “But [the soldiers] had a real aversion to it.

“They said, ‘You wouldn’t want to be sleeping in a tent next to someone who had stuffed cabbage, would you, ma’am?’ ”

Here’s what made the cut:

Instant granola with blueberries or strawberries (just add water)Vanilla- and chocolate-flavored instant puddingToaster pastries (chocolate chip and French toast flavors)Chipotle snack breadChocletto’s candy (chocolate toffee candy)Twizzler Nibs (red licorice candy)Chocolate-covered coffee beansSugar cookies with flags and soldiers imprinted in icingCheez-Its, hot and spicyIrish Cream-flavored coffeeBanana strawberry dairy shakeSalsa verde (condiment)Butter Buds (condiment)Splenda (sugar substitute)Two new entree items will make their debut in the 2008 MREs (which will start appearing in the field in 2009, depending on how quickly current stocks are used up): chicken pesto pasta will replace chicken with cavatelli; and vegetarian lasagna with vegetables will replace vegetarian manicotti.

Although the new individual items have now been chosen for the 2008 MREs, food scientists at the feeding directorate are still working on putting them together into the 26 menus for the individual meals, Aylward said.

The contents of each MRE has to meet Defense Department requirements for protein, carbohydrate, sodium, fat and vitamin content, as verified by the Pentagon’s surgeon general.

“There’s a lot of balancing to make sure we get the nutritional content right,” Aylward said.

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