I really, really like a.bit's suggestion, and I would have voted for it in the poll if it had been available. I like the aspect of the suggestion that even the first-level mines can consume meals, but that this is a waste of resources, and so players should learn to balance their ration/meal production - but they're not totally screwed if they fail to do so.
As for the various objections to that suggestion, I think they can be handled in the following way. Let the basic mine have both rations and meals as input. In the production program, set it up so that it always prefers to consume rations, and only consumes a meal when no ration is available (I don't recall whether this is possible with the currently available code, but it is easily added in any case). This does not cause the same kind of trouble as with miners/master miners, because there is no "acts like"-relation that we need to worry about - it is all confined to the mine's production program.
And if you, as a player, want to prevent meals from going into the normal mines to avoid waste, then you can easily do so thanks to the new feature that allows one to do precisely that.