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How the US Military Shapes the Way We Eat Every Day

(Photo: US Army Materiel Command)

"An army marches on its stomach." That's a line attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte, who put great thought into how his armies were supplied with food. Since the end of his era, this logistical trend has only increased. The US Army in particular has spent vast sums of money and manpower developing the best possible means of assembling, preserving, and distributing food.

Anastacia Marx de Sacredo is the author of a new book on the subject titled Combat-Ready Kitchen: How the U.S. Military Shapes the Way You Eat. In an interview with NPR, she explains that the US military intentionally shares the results of its research with the public so that private companies that integrate into the military food supply chain in the event of war:

Most people don't realize that the military has a policy to get the science that it uses for rations into the public's food. The reason is military preparedness. This dates back to a policy that was made after World War II, which is designed to make sure both the military and its supporters can be ready at a moment's notice to convert over to producing rations or to create consumer products that they might be substituted in their stead. The key point here is that companies don't generally invest in basic and applied food science. What the Army is looking at is the big questions in food science. There are not many other places interested or able to do the research, so the Army guides the direction of food science.

A vast amount of the food that we Americans eat every day is the result of military research and product development:

What's one of the most surprising foods the U.S. military helped create?

There's something called high-pressure processing. It's not so much a surprise, but a wonderful example of how the Army organizes itself. They pick a topic, decide to pursue it and organize a team to solve the problem. The issue was finding new ways to preserve food, and HPP came out of that.

HPP is the application of a tremendous amount of pressure to food. The example I usually give is: Picture 20 minivans on a single penny. [The force applied] is that extreme, and what that does is it kills any bacteria that may be in the food.

The important thing here is that along the way, companies took the technique and began applying it to their own products. Many of the single-serving fresh juices use this [method] — it's a way to sterilize juice without losing the flavor. Ready-to-eat guacamole uses HPP, and so do many salsas. The big one is Hormel. In the mid-2000s, it applied the technique to deli meats. This whole line of deli meats now says no preservatives on the label, and that probably means it was produced with HPP.

You mention in your book that America is feeding its children like they're special ops. How so?

I literally realized that everything in my kids' lunchboxes had military origins or influence — the bread, the sandwich meat, juice pouches, cheesy crackers, goldfish and energy bars. Even if we look at fresh items like grapes and carrots, the Army was involved in developing packaging for fruits and vegetables. In a larger sense, I estimate that 50 percent of items in today's markets were influenced by the military.

-via Ace of Spades HQ


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