What is a Julian Date?

Good news! Food Insurance now carries hugely popular MREs. We’re just as excited as you are. MREs are a great addition to your food storage plan. However, with a 1-5 year expiration, you have to be on top of the manufacture dates, which can be fairly confusing if you don’t know the Julian dating system. Never fear, we’ve got you covered.

What is a Julian date? Julian dating is actually one of the oldest ways of keeping a calendar, dating centuries before we started our calendar system. While we’ve adopted a relatively young Gregorian calendar using years, months, and days, Julian dating uses only numbers.

Why would MRE manufacturers use Julian dates? Remember, MREs are originally made for the US military. The military uses the most efficient timekeeping methods. Think military time- 8am is 0800 and 4pm is 1600. Julian dating is similar to the continuous numerical time. It isn’t divided by months, but rather years and days. This is easier for programming the date stamp system.

Julian dates are 4 or 5 digit dates that that start with the last digit of the year and end with the corresponding number of the day of the year.

That doesn’t help? Okay, here’s a visual representation for you.  Our traditional expiration date looks like this: MM/DD/YYY.  January 1, 2018, looks like 01/01/2018.  The same Julian date looks like this: YYDDD.  January 1, 2018, is 18001. (The 18 for 2018 and the 001 is for the first day of the year.)  If you want to get more complicated, let’s try July 9, 2016.  The Julian date is 16191.  2016 was a leap year, making July 9th the 191st day of the year.

What if there are only 4 numbers on my MRE? That’s easy. That particular MRE distributor only uses the last digit of the year. So the Julian date 7115 was manufactured April 25, 2017.

Here’s an easy resource to compare your MRE Julian dates:

Julian dating is mostly used for MREs, but you can also see them with food storage dating. If you don’t see a traditional manufacture date, look for that 4-5 digit code. You’ll know exactly which date your food was manufactured.