Service Members Are Being Denied Plant-Based Meals Ready to Eat (MREs)


Good news! On July 14, 2022, the United States House of Representatives passed the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The NDAA is not law until it is signed by President Biden, but this is an important first step. 

The House Armed Services Committee report that accompanied the NDAA included an amendment—put forth by Rep. Ro Khanna—that requires the Defense Logistics Agency of the Department of Defense to produce a report on plant-based MREs. When the NDAA becomes law later this year, this report will be due on September 30, 2023, and will include studies of feasibility and service-member preferences, as well as a plan for creating and offering plant-based MREs to active service members.

When service members are in combat or other demanding situations where cooking facilities are not possible, the U.S. military provides individually packaged meals ready to eat (MREs). Each MRE contains snacks, beverage powder, an entree, a utensil, and accessories such as matches. Although MREs are an important resource for service members, there are no plant-based MREs available. Mercy For Animals is working to change that.

The Department of Defense spends hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars annually procuring tens of millions of MREs. Only 17 percent of these are vegetarian, and none are fully plant-based—even though active service members want plant-based options.

Our Survey

This year, Mercy For Animals conducted a survey of 226 service members from across all branches of the U.S. military. We found that a whopping 81 percent of those surveyed believed the military should provide more plant-based options, with 69 percent saying there needed to be plant-based MREs. Over half of those surveyed also said that, if given the option, they would choose plant-based MREs over animal-based.

Health Concerns

MREs are especially important because in situations where they are consumed, no other food options are usually available. This means MREs must be as nutritious as possible. Over half the service members we surveyed believed that plant-based foods were healthier than animal-based foods.

These beliefs are backed by widely accepted scientific studies showing that plant-based eating can reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and cholesterol, inflammation, and diabetes. These benefits should be available to service members at all times.

Environmental Concerns

Our survey revealed that service members also care about the environmental impacts of their food choices. An impressive 64 percent of those surveyed believe plant-based foods are more sustainable than animal-based foods. Additionally, 81 percent want more climate-friendly MRE options, while 70 percent reported that they chose climate-friendly food options when available. Plant-based MREs would fit the bill, as plant-based food involves fewer greenhouse gas emissions and are less resource intensive.

Take Action

Service members deserve access to plant-based foods! Here are two ways you can help:

Connect with Us

Are you or is someone you know a service member or veteran who has a story to share about the lack of plant-based MRE options in the U.S. military? We’d love to hear from you—please email us at [email protected].

Connect with Your Congress Members

Ask your members of Congress to support language in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act that would require providing plant-based MRE options to service members in the U.S. military! Click here to send a letter.