Well-designed nutrition is a crucial factor in ensuring the combat effectiveness and resilience of military units.
The principles of nutrition are developed taking into account the needs of each soldier, considering their age, gender, physical activity, and the nature of their tasks. Colonel Alzhan Baimuratov, Head of the Main Material Support Department, shared exclusive insights into the organisation of nutrition in the Kazakhstani army with Sarbaz.kz.
The organisation of the nutrition system in the Armed Forces is a comprehensive process. The nutrition standards consist of a carefully planned diet that includes a variety of products enriched with essential nutrients.
Throughout the existence of the independent Kazakhstani army, the nutrition standards have been revised three times – in 2000, 2005, and 2015.
A significant change occurred in 2000 when the army transitioned from self-sufficiency to outsourcing and started engaging private catering companies. This shift was due to the fact that the provisions based on the principles of the Soviet Armed Forces no longer met the requirements due to the shortage of supplies and equipment.
The involvement of private contractors is carried out through state procurements on a competitive basis. According to Alzhan Baimuratov, numerous criteria are used to select participants, ranging from the availability of equipment to experience in food organisation. Upon winning the competition, the suppliers sign a three-year contract with the Ministry of Defense (previously it was one year). The participants must meet several criteria (a total of 23, plus 8 additional criteria), including the presence of bakeries, storage facilities, and relevant experience.
Moreover, in accordance with the resolution of the Kazakhstani Government, a food norm has been developed for the Armed Forces, which provides a specific list of products allocated to conscript soldiers for daily consumption.
Is there any difference in the meals?
The food supply throughout the entire army is centralised, with differences only in water consumption. For instance, water consumption norms are higher in southern regions compared to the north. The daily calorie intake, however, is uniform across all units, varying only depending on the type of troops.
"For instance, the standard daily ration for the entire army is 4,321 kcal, while for airborne assault troops, it is 4,518 kcal, and for aviators, it is 4,834 kcal. This difference is primarily due to the amount of physical exertion experienced by soldiers,"- states Alzhan Baimuratov.
In general, the main menu is almost identical, with all units receiving the same amount of food:
Breakfast: porridge, meat, butter, honey, eggs, sausage, cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream, tea.
Lunch: salad, first and second courses (porridge, stew, pilaf), tea, juice, bread, fruits.
Dinner: porridge, meat, butter, bread, tea, cheese, sausage, kefir.
The differences lie mainly in the number of food items. For example, the rations of airborne assault troops and aviators include additional items such as coffee and chocolate.
It is worth noting the special army ration during holidays. On such occasions, an additional ration is provided, including flour for baking, candies, cookies, and special festive dishes.
As Colonel Baimuratov emphasizes, nutrition differs not only in calorie content but also in cost. The cost of rations for rear services has to be adjusted annually, for instance, due to high inflation and changes in wholesale food prices. For the year 2023, the cost of the daily general ration is 2,250 tenge, while it is the most expensive for aviators, reaching 3,230 tenge.
Norms and Designations of Rations and Costs (KZT)
General army ration – 2,250
Ration for engineering and technical personnel – 2,581
Ration for cadets of higher educational institutions – 2,436
High-altitude ration – 2,579
Airborne assault ration – 2,552
Ration for students of grades 9-11 of the Republican school "Zhas Ulan" – 2,720
Ration for conscript servicemen of SK-CSKA sports training – 2,737
Aviator ration – 3,230
Marine ration – 2,499
Overall medical ration – 2,661
Medical ration for patients with kidney diseases – 2,252
Medical ration for patients with tuberculosis and pneumoconiosis – 2,736
Ration for cadets of educational institutions – 2,434
Changes in individual dietary rations are not overlooked. Starting from this year, new Individual Ration Packs (IRPs) will include portable stoves and water disinfectants.
Who develops the nutrition plan?
According to Alzhan Baimuratov, the nutrition standards were last changed in 2015 based on research conducted by the Kazakhstani Academy of Nutrition. For example, after these changes, honey was added to the soldiers' diet, and compote was replaced with dried fruits. Moreover, this year, there are plans to make further adjustments to the nutrition standards.
The development of nutrition standards takes several years. Experts from the Academy of Nutrition, including nutritionists, chemists, and doctors, closely examine the necessary caloric intake, vitamins, and other essential nutrients. They then compile recommendations and, together with military supply units, develop menus according to physical exertion levels.
In 2011-2013, several military units were selected for monitoring by the specialists of the Kazakhstani Academy of Nutrition. Using portable accelerometers and sensors, researchers measured various indicators, from the number of calories burned to physiological readings.
Based on the collected data, the scientists prepare a document with scientific justification for the proposed ration. They then defend this document before the Ministry of Defense, thoroughly explaining the necessity of specific nutritional norms regarding vitamins, carbohydrates, and fats. Officers of the food supply services, considering the opinions of unit commanders and personnel, use these recommendations to create the ration norms.