CANNED PRODUCT

eating from K ration can

The oblong tins originally used to package the meat component soon had to be abandoned in the emergency, because they could not be obtained in sufficient quantity. The 300 x 106 round, key-opening, sanitary cans substituted for them also required some readjustment to the assembly lines.


From the start of the development of the K Ration a part of the calorific value was provided by fat from a meat product. The canned product also delivered most of the proteins. It was clear from the start that the meat could only being packed in a can. Early experimentation of packaging meat in cellophane laminated to an aluminum foil proved not feasible.

The early K Ration (fall 1941) packed rectangular cans containing Veal Luncheon meat for breakfast, Pork Luncheon meat for dinner and Cervelate Sausage for supper. A lot of early promotional photos show these cans.


K ration, complete (i), Supper

The early experimental small scale production of the K Ration contained the rectangular cans. The key was attached to the can as shown here.


Originally the rectangular oblong cans, like a cut-down spam can, were intended to be used. However, the commercial capacity for producing those cans wasn't considdered adequate enough once the K Ration went into full production.


Early rectangular can (a)

Early rectangular can measuring 3 7/8" long, 2 1/8" wide and 1 1/8" high.


Round cans

As an alternative cylindrical cans were accepted. These cans were of the commercial 300 x 106 size, meaning they were 3 inches in diameter 1 3/8 inch high (the first digit are whole inches and the last two digits are 1/16th of an inch). Indirectly the hight of the can dictated the hight of the inner carton of the K Ration's box.


paper label

The earliest cylindrical cans were labeled with a paper label attached to the body of the can. Labels with commercial logos of the manufacturer can were used as well.
Later the label was lithographed on the end of the can. This can is dated September 1942.


All of these cans were of the key style opening. The key was not attached to the cylindrical can (like the B unit of the C Ration). The key was placed (though not attached) on top of the can when inserted in the inner box.



can opened

A March 1944 Cheese with Bacon can. The can has been opened showing its scored band torn away, practically cutting the can in half.
(This can has a green lacquer, complying with the November 1943 specifications that all cans were to have a camouflage coating.)


With the first large scale procurement the cans were of the cylindrical type. At the same time some changes in the meat products were made. The servelate sausage proved unpopular and was replaced with canned Cheese and was placed in the Dinner unit. The breakfast contained canned "Veal & Pork Loaf" or "Minced Corned Beef", while the supper contained a can of "Corned Pork Loaf".


Process American Cheese

Shown here a october 1942 can with plain cheese, its label is lithographed in dark blue. The can is coated with a clear lacquer.


As of July 1942 six varieties were developed for the K Ration.
The Breakfast unit contained either "Ham & Eggs", or "Chopped Pork & Egg Yolks". Sometimes cheese was substituted for the egg product due to inadequate production facilities. The Egg product contained about
2/3 meat and 1/3 egg component together with seasoning.
Dinner came with a can of cheese. This could be a mix of American cheese (with  20% Cheddar cheese.) As an alternative to the plain cheese, 7.5% of precooked bacon was mixed with the cheese. 
Later an American cheese with Swiss cheese was added.
Evening meal came with an improved "Corned Pork Loaf", but now containing Carrot and Apple Flakes mixed in. The other meat product was still the "Veal & Pork Loaf".


Chopped Ham and Egg

Early can with Egg product shown with its key. This can is not embossed with date or any other information. Note that the top is gold-lacquered.


In 1943 as alternative a fish product was suggested. Although some fish products were tested, none were accepted. The spreads submitted were considered "too salty, too spicy, or too granular". It was also reported that because of, apparently, "the well known dislike of many soldiers for fish" a canned fish product was not feasible.

The rectangular cans and the early procurement cylindrical cans used paper labels but soon the information was lithographed on one end of the can. Usually this was done in black, but sometimes red, blue or green ink was used as well.
The early cans were coated with a protective clear, later a gold lacquer was used.
In the fall of 1943 a camouflage lacquer or coating was suggested. Early 1944 cans can being found with a greenish lacquer, but soon a non-reflective olive drab coating was used. Due to production capacities some companies first used up old stock of the lacquered cans while other companies were already using the camouflaged cans, so both types can be found with early 1944 produced rations.


Process American Cheese with Bacon

Cheese product dated December 1944. This can is coated with a dull non-reflective o.d. paint. (photo: 1944Supply)


Kraft cheese

Another Cheese with bacon can with a camouflaged coating. (photo: 1944Supply)


The search for other varieties continued and at the end of the war there were still the two egg products, "Ham & Eggs" and "Chopped Pork & Egg Yolks".
The cheese came now in three varieties, plain "Processed American Cheese", "Processed American Cheese with Bacon" and "Processed American Cheese & Swiss Cheese Blend".


K ration cheese D-day

The can for the cheese product was lined with parchment paper (top, bottom and side). Here a 101st Airborne trooper in Normandy is removing a strip of parchment paper from the circumference of a block of cheese.


The usually encountered meat products are the "Pork Loaf with Carrot and Apple Flakes" and the "Beef & Pork Loaf". In early Supper units the "Corned Beef, Minced" can be found.


Can, beef and pork loaf

A camouflage coated Beef and Pork Loaf dated 1945. (photo: 1944Supply)


The K Ration's canned egg, cheese or meat products are also used with the lunch, packed as a Partial Dinner Unit, of the early 10-in-1 Ration.
In the fall of 1944 it was decided that the texture of the meat items for the noon meal of the 10-in-1 Ration should be more solid and five new varieties were added: Hamburgers, Pork Tenderloin, Pork & Corn, Pork with Applesauce, and Pork Sausage Patties with Apples. These new meat products came in 6 oz. 300 x 200 size cans. Obviously these cans were too big to fit in the cartons and were not used with the K Ration.

There were only two egg products developed for the K Ration:
- Chopped Ham & Eggs
- Chopped Pork & Egg Yolk

Four varieties of the cheese product were developed:
- American Processed Cheese
- American & Swiss Processed Cheese blend
- American Processed Cheese with Bacon
- Cheese Spread with Ham, or Cheese Spread with Smoked Meat and Relish

Eleven meat products were developed during the war. Some were developed in 1943, others at the end of the war. Some meat products were developed, but never went into production (marked with an asterisk):
- Minced Corned Beef (early K Rations)
- Canned Pork Loaf with Carrot and Apple Flakes
- Veal & Pork Loaf
- Beef & Pork Loaf
- Deviled Meat* (developed in 1943)
- Mortadella* (developed in 1943)
- Chicken, solid pack* (mentioned in September 1945 specifications)
- Chopped Suey with Pork and Toasted Almonds*
- Chipped Steak*
- Fried Ham*
- Pork Steaks*

The experimental K Rations with the rectangular cans contained:
- Veal Luncheon Meat
- Pork Luncheon Meat
- Cervelate Sausage


cans, group


Protective cardboard sleeve

It was discoverd that the protective wax coating of the inner carton would crack or even tear along the edges of the can inserted in it. To prevent this a cardboard sleeve was developed to insert the can in first before inserting the can in the inner carton. The earliest protective measure used was a piece of cardboard that folded around the can covering both ends half way.


early protective cardborad

Minced Corned Beef can with early cardboard protector. (photo: 1944Supply)


Later a real sleeve was used that was 3 inces wide and 2 3/4 inch deep, leaving the can only sticking out for a quarter inch.
The key was placed on one end of the can before sliding it in its sleeve. When the matches were included these were placed on the other end of the can inside the sleeve.


early sleeve

Two early sleeves with its notched corners.


The first type of sleeve has two notched corners so one side can be bend inwards a little. Whether this was done to faciltade insertion or to make more room for the other components is not known. the second type sleeve is of a straight box style.


Can, sleeve, key & matches

A can of Cheese product that was inserted in the straight style sleeve with the matchbook on top and the key underneath the can. The can has the camouflage coating and came from an early 1945 Dinner unit.

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