For this instalment of our Field Rations series I am staying in the Baltic States with the Latvian Sausā Uzturdeva or Dry Nutrition Ration, writes Bob Morrison.
If you have followed this Field Rations series you will be aware that modern military ration packs primarily fall into one of two basic categories; the individual meal pack providing around 1200kcal, as per the US MRE, or the 24-hour pack providing around 3,500kcal, as per the UK ORP. This Latvian Field Ration, brought back from Ādaži after Exercise SILVER ARROW in late 2017 and reviewed for the old C&S Magazine, falls in between at 2,500kcal.
The average male soldier deployed or exercising in the combat infantry role can expect to burn up 3,500kcal per day, so MRE-style packs are usually issued three per day and ORP-style packs generally cover a full day’s requirements. The Latvian ration pack issued in 2017, and good through to February 2019, was intended primarily for field exercise consumption and provided sufficient for two meals in the day on the assumption that fresh food or additional supplies would be provided to boost calorific and nutritional intake where necessary; at the time I was told this was under review and would be addressed when new ration packs were introduced.
The 2017 Sausā Uzturdeva, which translates literally as Dry Nutrition Ration, of which I understand there were nine variations, were issued in a tough dark green outer pack which is of similar plastic material to the US MRE but not quite as thick. A large white label on the outside, in both Latvian and English, gave a list of all contents, their individual energy values and any heating/eating instructions, plus supplier’s contact and storage instructions in Latvian. Although I gained the impression these were only issued to Latvian troops on the exercise, as is to be expected there was a fair bit of international swapping going on as quite a few soldiers on exercises like to vary their routine menu by trying something different when the opportunity arises.
Inside the Menu 3. outer pack were two small plastic bags – the Heating Set and the Brew Kit – with all other contents loose stacked. The complete contents list was: 1x 250g can of Meat Stew with Pearl Barley; 1x vacuum-sealed bag containing 100g Rye Bread; 1x 50g sachet of freeze-dried Rice Porridge with Blueberries; 1x 42g pack of Boiled Sweets; 1x 20g pot of Honey, 1x 20g pot of Blackcurrant Jam; 1x 50g pack of Mixed Cashews & Almonds; 4x Dried Coffee sachets; 1x Citrus Green Teabag; 2x 20g Sugar sachets; 1x Chewing Gum strip; 1x Matches book; 1x Moist Towelette; 1x Plastic Spoon; 1x Rubber Band (for closing the outer bag when used for rubbish); 1x Alloy Stove (flat); and a strip of 4x solid fuel tablets.
Turning first to the main meal can, which was best warmed before consumption but could be eaten cold if necessary as it was fully cooked, this alone provided 55% of the total calorific value (1397kcal) of the pack; if you can get your hands on a batch of these they are well worth storing as emergency survival food. Although the 100mm diameter by 38mm thick (4in x 1.5in) ring-pull can weighed just 250 grammes it generated an incredible 1397kcal of energy; by way of comparison, a 400g can of Heinz Beef Broth works out at 176kcal and a 400g can of Tesco Chilli Con Carne only gives 398kcal. Incidentally, other rations manufacturers I have spoken to since first writing about this ration have queried this high value for an individual component but as it is printed in black on white I have to go with this. As for the taste test, the Meat Stew with Pearl Barley passed with flying colours, as did a can of Pork with Buckwheat (Menu 8.) which I sampled out in Latvia when eating with the troops.
Rye Bread is not my favourite, as I have mentioned before, but as black bread made with rye is more common across much of northern Europe than white bread made with wheat flour, it is unsurprising to find it in Latvian ration packs and to do this job properly it was only right that I tasted it. Of the many rye breads I have tried over the course of the last 30 years, this was undoubtedly the moistest and most tasty to date. I cannot say it has converted me away from soft white rolls, but the hint of caraway seeds made it reasonably palatable and once honey or jam were spread on the two thick slices they went down okay.
The freeze-dried Rice Porridge, reconstituted with 100ml of boiling water as per the instructions, was quite tasty too. The Cashews & Almonds were a bit bland for my palate, but were okay for nibbling when on the go. The barberry flavoured Boiled Sweets, on the other hand, were great and did not last long.
Finally, the Heating Set consisted of a pressed metal fold-up stove plus four fuel tablets and a box of Latvian safety matches. Although very similar to the Esbit stove found in French, and Belgian, ration packs it did not have the pressed rectangle for locating the fuel tablet so may be a copy rather than a proprietary item. The methenamine (i.e. hexamine) tablets were, however, Esbit brand but slightly smaller than those we have seen before.
On the whole, I would rate these Latvian ration packs pretty highly for both functionality and taste.
[ images © Bob Morrison ]
[ images © Bob Morrison ]