1944 Meat rationing

Government booklet produced in 1944 when meat rationing was introduced

From January 1944, meat coupons for adults could purchase an average of 2¼ lbs (just over 1 kg) of meat per week, depending on the cut. Children received half the adult ration. Meat rationing continued until 1948. Newspapers and magazines such as the Australian Women’s Weekly published many ‘austerity’ and meat-free recipes to help cooks work within the wartime rationing regime.

Australians were introduced to the idea of meat rationing when ‘beefless days’ were announced in 1942.  Twice a week, no one could eat, buy or sell any product containing beef.

Coupons were introduced for meat rationing on 17 January 1944. However, fish, sausages, chicken, ham and rabbits were not rationed. The various classes of meat and cuts were divided into six groups, the ration for each group varying according to the cut and bone and fat content. Offal was easier to come by than better cuts so brains, tripe, liver and kidneys were a significant part of the wartime diet.

Food purchased from cafes and restaurants was not rationed, but the establishments themselves were subject to quotas for rationed foods. Guests staying in a hotel or rooming house for more than six days were required to surrender their ration vouchers to the host.

Meat rationing became more severe as the war continued. The allowance was twice reduced, in February 1945 and again in May 1945.  This reduced the average amount for adults to 1.84 lb (around 830 g) per week.

Many recipes were developed to help households replace meat with alternative protein sources. For example, the Australian Women’s Weekly suggested a roast dinner be replaced with a Browned Vegetable Loaf, served with baked potatoes, greens, and brown gravy and followed with an oven cooked pudding:

One and a half cups grated carrot, 1 cup chopped celery, 1/2 cup grated parsnip, 1/2 cup grated turnip or radish, 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, 1 chopped onion, 1 tablespoon flour, 2 eggs, 1 cup milk or stock, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh or dried herbs, browned breadcrumbs.

Combine the vegetables, breadcrumbs, flour, beaten eggs, milk and seasonings. Turn into a greased loaf tin, liberally sprinkled with browned breadcrumbs. Bake in a moderate oven (350 deg. F.) for about 50 minutes.

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