Feeding the Frontline: US Army pioneer pizza technology
Combat Feeding Directorate (CFD) specialists from the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC) are cooking up new ways to create and produce shelf-stable pizza for Meals, Ready-to-Eat (MRE).
Whether fresh or frozen, pizza is for many of us a modern day staple. Not so for the warfighter out in the field however. Here, the Italian delicacy remains something of a scientific quandary and with good cause. MREs must stay shelf-stable for three years in temperatures of up to 26 degrees Celsius, but that extended shelf life has long been at odds with traditional pizza ingredients.
Until now, that is. CFD has employed a combination of cutting-edge technologies around water activity, pH levels and packaging to create the world’s first shelf-stable pizza. These initial pizza prototypes were successful in lab conditions, though complications arose once the commercial food industry began full-scale production.
Typically, foods made for the commercial market do not need to withstand the same stringent requirements as their military counterparts. Thus, CFD conducted three comprehensive tests to ensure the pizza was producible outside of lab conditions, later refining their specifications to improve pizza quality.
“Partnership with industry is essential to ensure that what works in government laboratories is practical and achievable in a commercial full-scale production setting,” said Stephen Moody, director of NSRDEC’s CFD. “This product is a great example of using food science to meet the challenging and unique requirements for military rations.”
The first shelf-stable pepperoni pizza will be brought into MREs this spring to the delight of US soldiers the world over.
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