You are here

3. Comparisons Between the Civilian and the Armed Services' Diet (1939-45)

Document

Comparisons Between the Civilian and the Armed Services' Diet in the Second World War (1939-45) - Animal Fat Levels

The reference document used to compare the consumption of animal fat in the Australian civilian population with that in the armed services, is an independent analysis of the nutrient levels in a civilian male diet based on the survey: Food consumption and dietary levels in 2730 Australian family households in 1944 and the nutrient levels in six service ration scales operational during the Second World War. The analysis was undertaken by Cj Software P/L, PO Box 783, Belconnen, ACT 2616.

Nutrient intakes of the civilian population

To provide background documentation on this reference, it was considered necessary to review the methodology for the food consumption and dietary levels in 2730 Australian family households in 1944, conducted in all six states. The method used for data collection was the log-book method. Trained investigators entered the homes of families who had agreed to cooperate. They firstly took an inventory of the amount of all food on hand at this time, and then directed and assisted the housewife in keeping a record in the survey log-book of the cost and amount of all food brought into the household during the week under consideration.

Finally, the investigator made another inventory at the end of the period to record the food still in the household. All free food given or produced was recorded and an adjustment made to cover meals eaten away from home or eaten by visitors. Items of gross waste, such as the quantities of food which had gone bad and been thrown away, were deducted from the net total. Food weights detailed in the survey report were as purchased and reported as the food intake of a theoretical adult male and per head (including household members of both sexes and all ages). The food weights detailed for an adult male were re-analysed for nutrient levels including that of animal-based fats, for the reference document commissioned for this review. To allow the best comparison between the civilian and service diet, the same food composition tables used for the analysis of the food intake weights for an adult male from the 1944 Household Survey, were also applied to the analysis of the service rations implemented in the Second World War (1939-45).

Nutrient intakes of the armed services population

The army ration scales operational during the Second World War within Australia, in the Middle East, and in New Guinea and Pacific Islands, provided the reference to assess the food and nutrient intakes of the service population. These ration scales were identified following detailed research of extensive archival material, made available from the Australian War Memorial in the Australian Capital Territory. Based on the material available in the archival material and other documents relating to the feeding of the armed services from 1939 to 1945, a timetable was outlined for the operation of service rations during these years, and is detailed below.

Timetable for operation of service rations during the Second World War (1939-45)

Australia

27 September 1939 to 30 March 1942

Standard commodity list and menu of Eastern and Northern Command

1 April 1942 to 15 August 1942

Ration Scale A - AHQ Instructions for War, Supply and Transport Service

16 August 1942 to 28 January 1945

Ration Scale B - tropical zone (applied to male personnel in Queensland - west of 1500 longitude, including the Torres Islands; in the Northern Territory - north of 260 latitude; and in Western Australia - north of 260 latitude

Ration Scale C - temperate zone (applied to male personnel in Queensland - east of 1500 longitude; Western Australia - south of 260 latitude and for all of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Tasmania

28 January 1945 -

Ration Scales B and C amended in respect of area of application

Middle East

28 April 1941 -

AIF Ration Scale - normal basis of issue

6 August 1942 -

Field Service Ration Scale - basis of feeding the AIF in operation

New Guinea and Pacific Islands

16 August 1942 to 3 April 1943

Ration Scale B

4 April 1943 to January 1944

Pacific (New Guinea) Ration Scale

February 1944 to 24 October 1945

Pacific (New Guinea) Ration Scale amended in relation to food quantities

1 August 1943 -

AMF Operation Ration - Special ration pack

15 January 1944 -

AMF Emergency Ration - Special ration pack

The detailed ration scales with approved food equivalents and information on significant changes in the ration scales and other information, relevant to animal-based fat levels in the rations are given at Attachment 2.

Results of the comparison between civilian and service diets

To allow a comparison between civilian and service diets, a series of diets were developed for the service rations, based on the information available in the archival material. For example, for the Eastern and Northern Command ration scale, the diet was based on weekly menus used in service messes and weekly lists of foods and food quantities provided for the feeding of 100 personnel. Diets were prepared and analysed for all the service rations given in the above timetable with the exception of the short-term field operational ration scales for the Middle East, and for New Guinea and Pacific Islands.

The diets and background material on their selection provided to the Consultant Analyst, are detailed at Attachment 3. The nutrients analysed were as follows:

Nutrients analysed for civilian and services' diets

  • Total fat (g)
  • Animal fat (g) as defined in the Statement of Principles
  • Total energy (kJ) and (kCal)
  • Contribution of total fat to total energy
  • Contribution of animal fat to total energy
  • Protein (g)
  • Available carbohydrate (g)
  • Dietary fibre (g)
  • Thiamin (g)
  • Riboflavin (mg)
  • Niacin (mg)
  • Vitamin C (mg)
  • Calcium (mg)
  • Iron (mg)

In the introduction to the analysis results in the reference document, information is given on the data sources used for nutrient composition and edible portion factors, the edible portions used to adjust the "as purchased" weights of foods, the reference nutrient data used, and the retention factors applied to the vitamin and mineral nutrients. The comparison in regard to animal fat content of the diets given below allows for a 10 percent food wastage factor applied to the service ration diets. This factor was applied to allow better comparison with the civilian diet which allowed for kitchen waste. For information, a figure of 20 percent wastage has also been applied to the service diets, because of widespread reports in the archival material of food waste in service messes, which was the subject of a war-time national Government enquiry, and the comment in an archival document on the practice in service messes of selling surplus meat fat, for both edible and non-edible uses.

Comparison of animal fat content of civilian and service diets

The comparison of the animal fat content of the civilian diet and in six service rations is given below:

Comparison of animal fat content of civilian and service diets
Civilian diet

122.0g animal fat/head/day

Ration scale diets - Eastern and North Command

 95.8g animal fat/head/day

Ration scale diets - Temperate Australia

100.5g animal fat/head/day

Ration scale diets - Tropical Australia

108.4g animal fat/head/day

Ration scale diets - Middle East

117.4g animal fat/head/day

Ration scale diets - New Guinea and Pacific Islands

113.2g animal fat/head/day

Ration scale diets - New Guinea and Pacific Islands (amended)

131.8g animal fat/head/day

The values for protein, dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals of the civilian diet and service ration diets indicate that their overall nutritional values were adequate in meeting nutrient needs. The previous reference for a comparison of civilian and service rations diets during the second World War was the Davidson Report of 1988. This consultant (RE) has a number of reservations about the usefulness of this document, including reference only to the level of total fat in the respective diets. These reservations are detailed at Attachment 4.

Proposition

The independent analysis of the civilian and service ration diets indicates that with one exception, the service rations operating in the Second World War did not contain a higher level of animal fat than the civilian diet for an adult male, as reported in the 1944 National Household Survey. For the service rations operating within Australia, the animal fat content ranged from 78.5 to 88.8 percent of that of the civilian diet. The service rations available in the Middle East, and in New Guinea and Pacific Islands approximated the animal fat level of the civilian diet (96.2 and 92.8 % respectively), with the amended ration for New Guinea and the Pacific Islands exceeding that of the civilian diet by 8.0 percent. Overall it can be concluded that there is no evidence from the analysis of civilian and service diets that the rations available to servicemen during the Second World War contained excessive amounts of animal fat compared to civilian diets. One factor contributing to this result is the availability of archival material, documenting that the meat ration for the services was based on carcass weight with a resulting marked reduction in edible portion, compared to butchers' weight available to civilians. Also an allowance of 10 percent kitchen wastage applied to the service rations to conform with the methodology of the 1944 National Household Survey, marginally modified the level of nutrients in the service diet, including that of animal fat.