The quest for pizza MREs remain just out of greasy grasp

Matt Saintsing
February 09, 2018 - 12:07 pm

U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Suzanna Plotnikov

Ooey-gooey melted cheese atop a spicy tomato sauce, built on a strong doughy foundation, baked to perfection and with your choice of toppings. We’re talking pizza, of course!

Today is (apparently) #NationalPizzaDay, and an day excuse to celebrate it by shoveling copious amounts of ‘za in the largest whole in your head. But, did you know, that our brave military (who has sacrificed so much), will continue their selfless service without a univerally loved slice?

Don’t feel too bad, however, the pizza looks like actual shit on a shingle.

Aestetic problems aside, The Pentagon has, for years now, been developing a Meal, Ready-to-Eat (MRE) that can quench this insatiable thirst and feed the world's most lethal fighting force. But, they’ve ran into trouble as MREs must be capable of lasting the requisite three years all military rations must endure.

Dating back to October of 2013, Stars and Stripes first reported on this irresistible national security matter. “Pizza is the holy grail of MREs because for decades, people have been asking for this,” Paul DellaRocca, the program integration at the DoD’s Combat Feeding Directorate, told the newspaper in 2013.

"If you give servicemembers a product that isn’t on the mark, he said, “they’re going to bite into it and not say, ‘This is pizza.’ That’s what we need them to say.”

We put a man on the moon 48 years ago, but, we can’t make a pizza that can pass muster? All MREs must have a shelf-life of at least three years when stores at 80 degrees or below. To test this, MREs are then places in a 100-degree oven for six months, which through the miracle of science, simulates the 3-year length.

This was attempted last year, and according to Defense News, the pizza MRE “became too brown.”

Rather than a safety or edibility issue, this setback reflects the high mark of quality control the DoD has come to set itself for meals intended to be eaten years later. 2018 was supposed to be the year of the pizza MRE, available in both pepperoni and cheese varieties, but now the delay is indefinite with no date in sight.

Another problem is getting the ingredients right. According to a 2014 Vice article, careful attention is paid to each chemical and preservative in each ingredient. Since the tomato sauce seeps into the crust, a tomato-flavored buffer had to be developed. Most cheese in supermarkets are too moist, so they had to cut it with a cheese-like product that can survive years.

So, making an eternal pizza, it turns out, is harder than it sounds. We can’t even make it look good, much less last for years on the shelf. If the past 16-and-a-half years has taught us anything it’s that our troops will soldier on with little thanks, and no pizza.

When the immortal pizza code is finally cracked, I’ll be ready to drown it in a sea of tabasco, and savor every little everlasting morsel.