Food Scientists at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center are nearing what they call the holy grail of ready-to-eat meals for soldiers stationed overseas: pizza. It’s one of the most requested items by soldiers when it comes to what they’d like to see in their rations, and David Accetta, a former Army lieutenant colonel and spokesman for the lab, says that having that hot, tasty meal goes a long way toward boosting attitudes oversees.
“In a lot of cases, when you are cold and tired and hungry, having a hot meal that’s something that you like and you would get at home, it increases your morale — and we consider that to be a force multiplier,” Accetta told the AP.
Long-lasting, ready-to-eat pizza is an achievement that has been so illusive because of the way that the moisture in the sauce, cheese, and toppings tended to migrate into the dough over time, making it soggy and more likely to lead to mold and bacteria growth. Advancements have come from using humectants like sugar, salt, and syrup that bind to water and prevent it from migrating. Scientists also manipulated the acidity of the ingredients to stifle bacteria growth and used iron filings to absorb oxygen in the pouch.
After all this research, what does the military hope to get? Pizza that lasts for 3 years in 80 degree temperatures, and some well-fed and happy soldiers.