Thursday, September 24, 2015

Product Review: UST Emergency Food Ration Bars

While wandering through a Wal-Mart a while ago, I noticed that they carried UST emergency food bars in the camping section (next to the freeze-dried meals). Since they were a brand and flavor (apples and cinnamon instead of the normal lemon or coconut) I wasn't familiar with, I picked up a few to test and add to a 72 hour bag I'm building for a family member.

The Numbers
This is a typical 2400 Calorie emergency bar, vacuum-sealed in heavy foil and scored to allow you to break it into 6 pieces. Shelf-life is five years, with the production date and expiration date clearly marked on the back of the package. Since the whole bar weighs 18 ounces, each meal is about three ounces. I say "about" because the pieces aren't going to break perfectly square along the scored lines. The six pieces are designed to allow you two meals a day for three days or three meals a day for two days, depending on your activity level. Each piece, or meal, provides 400 Calories (160 from fats) and 100% of the Daily Value of:
Vitamin A, Vitamin B1 (Thiamin), Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), Vitamin B3 (Niacin), Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid), Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Iron, Copper, Calcium, Zinc, and Iodine
as well as 7 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber. Basically, each meal is the same as taking a multi-vitamin.

The Ingredients
Enriched flour (wheat and malted barley) is the main ingredient, followed by various sugars, flavors, soy solids, and nutritional additives. It is made in Jacksonville, FL, so the quality assurance should be a step or two higher than any of the stuff coming in from overseas. It does contain wheat and soy, so those with food sensitivities should take notice.

The Testing
I didn't really care to go on an exclusive diet of this for three days just to write about it, so instead I added it to my normal daily menu in place of breakfast. Quick, easy, and nutritional; sounds like breakfast to me. The bonus of not needing to take my daily multi-vitamin didn't hurt either. I'm not a morning person, so little things like remembering to take my vitamins can be a chore.

The Results
  • The texture is slightly dry and crumbly, but not thirst-provoking. I could eat it without any liquids, which is rare (my throat is messed up from an old injury). The flavor is mild and definitely apples and cinnamon. Autumn means pumpkin spice everything to some folks, but it means apple season to me. 
  • The meal-sized portion was quite filling. I didn't feel hungry even though it was only 3 ounces of food. I had no problem making it to lunch time without being hungry. 
  • Cost was a factor in my test. Since the whole bar was just under $5.00, I was eating breakfast for less than 85 cents a day. A single donut costs more than that and won't fill you up. Some of the other brands cost twice as much for a slightly larger package, so I'm OK with the pricing. 
  • Weight is also a factor. At 18 ounces, I can carry more of these in a pack than I can MREs or freeze-dried meals. 
  • The vacuum sealing makes them as hard as a board, so be careful where you put them in your pack. Even after I opened the package, the bar stayed hard for the six days it took me to finish it off. Closing the package was accomplished by rolling the foil closed along the top where I had opened it. A quart or larger zipper-seal bag would be a handy storage place for it in a pack. 
  • I noticed no issues with my stomach or intestines during the test. One meal a day of something a body is not used to can often create havoc in the digestive tract. That was not an issue with this brand.
A cheaper alternative to the Datrex and Mainstay emergency bars that have been on the market for years, the UST emergency bar does what it advertises at a good price. Being available on a store shelf instead of having to be ordered and paid for online has OPSEC value for me. I like paying cash and leaving no record of my prepping purchases. I will be picking up more of them when I see them on the shelf.

Editor's Note: It is worth noting that eating this bar for 3 meals a day only yields a caloric intake of 1200 calories. An active adult female needs twice these calories daily, and an active adult male needs even more. To get the most out of these ration bars, you will either need to be sedentary (in which case the male is still likely to be quite hungry), or carry double the rations.

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