Having been in the outdoor/recreational and long-term food storage industry for over thirty-five years, I have seen a lot of companies and products come and go. There has been quite a bit of change over the years. While the food you rely upon in an emergency is vital and life-sustaining, unfortunately few preppers and planners do the valuable research they should for this essential category of provisions. This article is written to help educate and inform the serious preparedness planner and give those just starting off in food storage and resiliency-building a good foundation of knowledge to help evaluate needs and determine what are the best products for those needs.
Because I have personally witnessed, heard, and read so many conflicting, misleading, and outright deceptive claims and information regarding foods for long-term storage, I am writing this – the first of two – concise and to-the-point articles. While many food reserve companies are educated and reliable, many are intentionally or unintentionally ignorant and deceitful.
1. If the company promotes their food reserve assortments by number of servings, how many calories are contained in what they designate as a serving?
A common marketing tactic used by many food companies today is to promote a given number of servings in an assortment, and sometimes to even state that an assortment is good for a given period of time with a given number of servings. In the preparedness marketplace today, where people may have to depend on daily food rations for their nourishment, only knowing the number of servings in an assortment is close to meaningless and the information insignificant. Why? Because a “serving” quantity and quality can be anything the company wants it to be. You need more information.
2. What are the calories in each serving – the ingredient source of those calories (white sugar, non-nutritive calories or quality calories) – and what method, or source of information, was used to determine the calories in their products?
The standard for comparing one reserve food product with another has traditionally been to compare the number of calories of similar products or meals. This is done by comparing the calories by either knowing the stated calories and the weight in a given serving of a product or the number of calories of a food product in a comparable-size pouch or container. This enables comparisons of similar items from different companies – comparing apples with apples. Even the government on their mandated nutritional information requires the calories be listed, along with the source of those calories.
3. How many calories does the company recommend one should consume per day, and how many of their servings will it take to achieve this number?
Now you can do the math and compare the real cost and value of one company's products to another. What is the cost per quality calorie? What is the cost for supplying the proper number of calories for the time period in your emergency scenario? Don’t forget it is the quality of the calories that is critical.
Here is the important issue: The RDA (recommended daily allowance) for the average adult person is 2,000 calories a day (reputable companies generally allow 1,800 to 2,200 calories a day in formulating their assortments). There are companies who promote a 500 to 1000 calorie per day allowance!
4. If a company uses names for their meals that sound like they contain real meat or are similar-sounding to meat recipes – is it real meat, soy, or gluten?
This is a common deception among many companies that either do not have the legal authority to pack real meat products because they do not have USDA inspected facilities or try to make their products as cheaply as possible.
5. When a company claims a shelf life of between 20 and 30 years, how was this determined?
I know of only two companies who have been in business longer than 20 years with long-term food reserve products who can verify shelf life, use the proper packaging technologies, and have their own testing facilities. In the 37 years that I have been in the preparedness industry, I have never heard of any established major manufacturer of dry food products ever recommending storing foods in any type of pouch over 7 years. This includes all the established companies packing pouch foods for the outdoor recreational industry.
6. What experience do your customers have eating your foods exclusively for extended periods of time?
If a company is selling you foods that you may have to rely upon for weeks, months, or possibly years, how did they determine that their foods have the necessary nutritional value to sustain a person for an extended length of time? This includes children and adults.
7. How does the food taste and is it formulated to digest properly if consumed for a lengthy period of time?
Many of today’s preparedness food companies are primarily marketing companies that don’t emphasize quality and nutrition. Their foods must be made cheaply to support the margins required for their extensive marketing budget, commissions, and dealer costs. Study the ingredient declarations – often very difficult to find, if not unavailable on many websites – for artificial flavor enhancers, preservatives, artificial colors and flavors, fillers, and white sugar. Are there any reliable independent testimonials about the foods you are considering for a preparedness investment? How long has the company been in the food reserve business?
NOTE: MRE’S (meals-ready-to-eat – military rations) were formulated by the military to be eaten for no longer than one month.
I hope this article provides you with a good initial set of questions to ask when evaluating a particular product or company and gives you a better step forward in your resiliency building efforts. I look forward to reading about your own experiences and thoughts.
~ Denis Korn