You are here

Nutrient Analysis of Ration Scales - World War 2


Nutrient Analysis of Ration Scales – World War 2
Janine Lewis, Consultant Nutritionist, July 1998








The Project Brief for this consultancy was to report the nutrient analysis of six service ration scales and a civilian male diet based on the survey Food consumption and dietary levels in 2730 Australian family households in 1944 civilians.

The foods listed in each ration scale and the civilian diet were provided in the Brief and given in terms of amount of food per person as purchased.

Nutrients for analysis:

  • Total fat (g)
  • Animal fat as defined (g)
  • 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 (mg)
  • Riboflavin (mg)
  • Niacin (mg)
  • Vitamin C (mg)
  • Calcium (mg)
  • Iron (mg)

Back to top




Arrangement of Tables

The results of the nutrient analyses for the series of ration scales and the civilian diet are summarised in Table 1 and presented in detail in Tables 2 to 8, one diet per table. Table 9 provides the reference nutrient composition and edible portion factors. Table 10 lists the vitamin and mineral cooking retention factors.

List of Tables

  1. Summary Tables
  2. Civilian Diet
  3. Ration Scale - Northern and Eastern Command
  4. Ration Scale B - Tropical Australia
  5. Ration Scale C - Temperate Australia
  6. Ration Scale - Middle East
  7. Ration Scale - Pacific Islands and New Guinea
  8. Ration Scale - Pacific Islands and New Guinea, amended 1/2/44
  9. Reference nutrient composition/100 g edible portion
  10. Vitamin and mineral retention factors on cooking


Nutrient composition of ration scales and civilian diet, Tables 2 to 8

Tables 2 to 8 present details of the nutrient contributions of individual foods as well as the total nutrient content of each of the ration scales or civilian diet. For Tables 3 to 8 a wastage factor of either 10 or 20 per cent was applied to the total nutrient content to account for likely kitchen and plate waste. These factors were selected on the basis of a study reported in the Fifth report of the Advisory Council on Nutrition (1938) (#1) of plate waste in a residential university college which showed wastage of around 10%.

The nutrient composition of the diets were derived by applying the appropriate Table 9 nutrient reference data/100 g to the corresponding edible weights of the foods in each ration scale or civilian diet. A nutrient ID number is also shown to provide a link to the nutrient profiles selected from Table 9.

The ration scales provided to the consultant were adjusted on advice that a portion of the butter ration should be substituted for margarine on the basis of apparent consumption data in the ratio of butter to margarine, 0.77:0.23.

Back to top

Reference nutrient data, Table 9

Table 9 provides the reference nutrient composition data for all 127 foods listed in the diets, together with details of source material and some edible portion factors.

Data sources for nutrients and edible portion factors

Nutrient data in Table 9 were obtained from a small number of sources. In considering the range of possible source options, Australian information was ranked as the most relevant and therefore of primary importance. Unfortunately, a comprehensive nutrient data table for all relevant foods pertaining to the period under consideration was not available.

However, the Fifth report of the Advisory Council on Nutrition (1938) (#1), which provided data on the proximate composition of over 1,000 foods, was a key reference because of its comprehensive coverage of foods and relevance to the period. This particular reference was used as a guide in the estimation of the fat content of meat, fish and dairy foods and for these foods, the Council report is identified in Table 8 by the name of the analyst, Dr Geoffrey Bourne.

The main source of nutrient and edible portion data was the current Australian food composition tables, Composition of Foods, Australia (#3). The former Australian food composition tables, Tables of Composition of Australian Foods (#2), and the British food composition tables (#4) were used in the few cases where modern Australian data were not available. Some data for Service biscuits, wheatgerm, wheatmeal and germinated blue peas were provided by Dr English (#5).

Edible portion

Edible portion factors were used in Tables 2 to 8 to adjust the 'as purchased' weights of foods that contained inedible matter to edible weights. This step was incorporated into the calculation process for determining the nutrient contribution of each food to the diet.

For raw meat, the edible portion factor for service rations was based on a carcase proportion (#2), whereas for the civilian diet, the edible portion was based on the edible portion of retail cuts (#3). Tinned vegetables and fish were assigned an edible portion factor of 1, on the assumption that the ration quantities for these foods were given according to drained weight.

Reference nutrient data

For unprocessed foods, nutrient data were selected for the raw version of the food. Data on the gross composition and proximate composition of raw beef and mutton were available in the Advisory Council report) (#1) to enable a comparison with modern day equivalents. Overall, the proportion of edible matter (lean and separable fat) in meat cuts was greater in the 1930s. However, relatively more of that matter was present as separable fat. Of particular note was the finding that mutton separable lean of the 1930s contained 6g/100g edible portion more fat than lamb separable lean analysed in the 1980s. Similarly, beef lean and separable fat of the 1930s contained about 6g/100g edible portion more fat than the beef 50 years later.

Commonwealth specifications for tinned meat and vegetable dishes were provided which specified that the ingoing meat should have no more than 10% (separable) fat. Note was also taken of the instruction to procure meat of trade quality than fattier prime quality. These details and the likely increased fat content of separable lean were factored into the estimation of fat content of raw and processed meats.

Because several foods were consumed in the cooked state, vitamin and mineral retention factors were applied to the relevant raw foods to account for cooking losses. No adjustment was made for potential fat loss on cooking. It was assumed that all such fat was subsequently consumed as part of other foods.

In cases where foods were generically described such as 'bread' or 'dried milk' or 'rice', aggregate nutrient profiles were calculated from contributions of similar foods described in more detail.


Vitamin and mineral retention factors, Table 10

Table 10 details the individual vitamin and mineral retention factors applied to the specified categories of unprocessed food to account for nutrient losses on cooking. These factors are based on factors given in the United States reference data base (#6). The factors were reduced by 0.1 in all cases on the assumption that greater losses could be anticipated because of less than ideal cooking conditions and a potential need to keep food hot for extended periods of time.

Back to top


#1. Commonwealth of Australia (1938). Fifth report of the Advisory Council on Nutrition. Commonwealth Government Printer, Canberra.

#2. Thomas S, and Corden, M (1970). Tables of Composition of Australian Foods. AGPS, Canberra.

#3. Department of Community Services and Health/National Food Authority (1989-). Composition of Foods, Australia. AGPS, Canberra.

#4. RSC/ MAFF (1992). McCance and Widdowson's The Composition of Foods. RSC, Cambridge.

#5. R English (1998). Personal communication.

#6. USDA (1997). Nutrient retention factors. USDA, Virginia.

Back to top