Pizza is quite the crowd-pleaser but making it a reality for soldiers has been a tough challenge. The issue of making pizza a part of the “Meals, Ready-to-Eat,’” or MRE, for the U.S. has been due to moisture concerns, but the military is quite close to perfecting a pizza recipe that requires no refrigeration and can last for three years.
Rations a soldier may get in the field are meant to be nutritious, but there is plenty of consideration for the individual’s taste and overall pleasure. If a MRE is not enjoyable, the U.S. Army gets rid of it. Pizza has been by far the most requested ration.
Associated Press reports on the progress of creating pizza that does not need to be heated, frozen or refrigerated. The nutrition and food research is being conducted at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, located in Massachusetts.
According to AP, the biggest obstacle in creating pizza as a MRE has been moisture. The sauce and cheese combine with the dough to create a soggy pizza that’s a breeding ground for mold and bacteria.
Michelle Richardson, a food scientist at Natick Army Labs, has been tinkering with a pizza formula for two years and is close to creating the “holy grail” of MRE. The moisture problem was fixed by using ingredients such as sugar and salt to prevent the dough from becoming soggy; later testing led to the modification of the acidity of the pizza to reduce oxygen. New packaging was also developed, adding iron filings, to reduce any air within the pouch, notes AP. The pizza developed by Richardson can survive in temperatures reaching 80 degrees Fahrenheit for three years.
Richardson’s recipe is still in the tasting stage but she has developed a pepperoni pizza, as well as a turkey pepperoni version, that is similar to those found in supermarket freezers. “The only thing missing from that experience would be it's not hot when you eat it. It's room temperature,” said Richardson to AP.
The Natick Army Labs develops new combat-armor technology, such as improved tactical vests or female body armor and the integration of new fibers to reduce heat and weight. It is also responsible for advancements in nutrition and the use of new technology, such as 3D printing, in the field.