In a first step towards World War II food rationing, newspapers throughout Australia announced on 16 January that “The eating of beef as well as selling or buying it on a beefless day is prohibited in a formal order issued tonight by the Minister for War Organisation of Industry (Mr J. J. Dedman) to give effect to the Government’s decision to fix two beefless days weekly”.
Although full meat rationing was not introduced until 1944, beefless days were instituted as a wartime measure. The purpose was to ensure sufficient supplies of beef for the fighting forces.
No more than two beefless days were to be declared in a week and it was expected that one of those would be Friday. (At this time, the Catholic custom of eating fish on Friday was still very common.) The order applied to “veal and all fresh, chilled, frozen or salted or canned beef, ox tongue, oxtails, cooked beef, or sausages containing beef or any other manufactured products containing beef”.
Newspapers printed recipes to help people cope with the lack of beef. In December 1943, the Brisbane Telegraph offered a recipe for mock sausages:
Take one cupful of breadcrumbs, one cupful of cooked potatoes, one cupful of oatmeal porridge, salt and pepper to taste, half a finely chopped onion, and a small quantity of sage. Mix together, roll in flour into the shape of a sausage, then fry in boiling fat until crisp and brown.
The Housewives’ Association weighed in, saying that reducing the price of mutton would help reduce the reliance on beef.
The announcement of beefless days was accompanied by a meat price inquiry and a promise to fix the retail prices of meat reported the Kyogle Examiner. “The industry from hoof to consumer is being investigated,” said the Customs Minister, Senator Keane. “We want to see who is getting the rake-off. Wives and children of the men of our forces, who are away fighting for their country, are being exploited. It is a stinking business.”