What is a K-Ration and what does it contain?

What is a K-Ration and what does it contain?

The K ration is a meal designed for the military, capable of providing the right number of calories and easily transportable. Here is how it was born.

Ration K : have you ever heard of it? It is nothing more than a power system designed specifically for the army , a daily military meal introduced in the United States of America in 1942 during the Second World War. The first thing that comes to mind when you hear about the K ration is: why is it called that? The reason is very simple, the K is phonetically very distinct from the letters that identified other types of ration of the period: ration A, ration B, ration D, ration J, etc. However, there are some rumors that claim that the letter K derives from the surname of the physiologist Keys but, in fact, they are only rumors.

How it was born

This type of power was necessary during the short but devastating battles of the Second World War, in which the soldiers needed a good diet but also light and easy to transport . In fact, in 1941 the American physiologist Ancel Keys was commissioned by the United States War Department to study a new type of individual ration, non-perishable and ready for consumption , which could be easily carried in the pockets of soldiers during war operations and obviously able to satisfy the nutritional intake of men engaged in battle. Keys looked for these foods in large retailers , mainly researching canned foods of various supermarkets, to find cheap food but at the same time capable of providing the energy necessary to support the physique of a soldier engaged even in particularly stressful combat conditions.

But what did Keys select in 1941 to include in his ration? He selected crackers, pork sausages, sweets, chocolate bars , managing to compose a ration of about 870 grams, capable of providing 3,200 calories . The first test was carried out on a group of six soldiers, leading to excellent results in terms of nutritional intake, less satisfactory in terms of quality, the military in fact defined it only better than nothing .

After some research on prototypes, it was decided to opt for a single package based on the three classic modules : breakfast, lunch and dinner, which was then adopted as a standard. The first production was used in May 1942, when it was supplied, on an experimental basis, to the troops of paratroopers; the first reports were encouraging, even if the tests were not so reliable, because they were carried out in conditions that were not really extreme. But by now, as early as 1943, it was decided to use the K ration even in extreme climates, such as jungle and mountains , and even if the K ration had been specifically designed as an emergency ration to be used for periods not exceeding 15 consecutive days, it was then used throughout the conflict.

After the end of the Second World War, a series of more specific and targeted studies were carried out, which revealed the criticalities of the K ration , which was considered inadequate for its caloric and vitamin content, as well as being monotonous and unwelcome to soldiers. given the scarcity of menus available and the similarity between the three modules that made it up. Obviously over the years the k ration has been perfected and is still used today in various armies, including the Italian one (which has been using it since 1952), whose K ration stands out for its better quality compared to rations produced for other armies.

What it contains

But what does the K ration contain? As already mentioned above, the ration includes the three modules of breakfast, lunch and dinner, in the breakfast there are instant coffee, biscuits and condensed milk (for obvious conservation problems), in the lunch and dinner it is possible to find the classic dishes, as for for example tortellini with meat sauce, wurstel, pasta and beans . In addition to the dishes, in the K ration, still today there are tablets to disinfect the water , fiber to be taken in pills, a support for cooking, fuel tablets, matches, mineral saltspowder and a disposable pack for dental hygiene. Obviously, given the conservation needs, there is little use of vegetables, while fruit is offered in different variations , dried or in bars, vacuum-packed or in syrup.

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