The April issue of Harper’s has a feature about the Prophet-approved MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) the U.S. military feeds its Muslim soldiers, prisoners, and associates (Afghan translators, Iraqi soldiers). Writer Jen Banbury draws a comparison between the difficulties of supplying whole armies with Islamically sanctioned halal rations and the general challenges of our various wars. Anything with vanilla, which contains alcohol is forbidden, as are most mass-produced bakery items, which contain a “nonessential amino acid derived from human hair,” and of course, meat must be slaughtered within very specific guidelines.

Banbury doesn’t name the manufacturer, but it turns out the MRE’s are produced by Deerfield based J & M Food Products, which, judging by its boilerplate, believes it is doing its bit to bring the boys home by winning the hearts, minds, and stomachs of the Iraqis. “If soldiers enjoy the food they are eating, it is more likely that they will stay and continue to train,” it says. “As we have seen in the news, high government officials believe that success in training the Iraqi military means our men and women in the US armed forces can come home sooner.”

Banbury is skeptical. Seems Iraqi soldiers can’t stand them and exchange them for the more generic rations issued to U.S. personnel who favor the American brand name snacks they come packaged with. Even Saddam tried to barter his halal Froot Loops for Raisin Bran.

J & M has been making these MREs since the early 90s; they’re certified by Chicago’s Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America. Meals like Florentine lasagna, cheese tortellini, beef stew, lamb and barley, and chicken and black beans, have a one-year shelf life and are accompanied by products such as Nature Valley granola bars, Taster’s Choice coffee, and (in what sounds another potential case of detainee abuse), New York Style-brand bagel chips.

The Harper’s piece isn’t online yet, but it concludes that J & M’s monopoly may be short lived since the U.S. is drawing down its control of the regional distribution centers in Iraq, and that Turkey, France, India, and China are all making cheaper versions of halal MREs.