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Meat Market: 1943

Meat Market: 1943

March 1943. Washington, D.C. Meat rationing at the A&P. "Harold Rowe, Office of Price Administration food rationing chief, sells meat to girl reporter at shopping preview of new program." View full size. Print of a photo by Alfred Palmer, Office of War Information. [Thanks to John D. for this sharp scan. - Dave]

On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

Now That's a good one!

I laughed!

Thank you, Moomin.

Help For Europe

Interestingly, food rationing in Britain didn't end immediately after WW II. Some food items were limited through the 1950s, with the last item ("yes, we have no bananas") only coming off the list in 1954.

[Australia, too. - Dave]


He worked at an A&P during WWII as well, in Pittsburgh. My mother recalled that despite the Depression and the war, meat was on the table every night thanks to where her dad worked.

War Economy

I agree with Gooberpea. Notice how many women are wearing fur in some form. As limited as our funds were, even my mother had a winter coat with a huge fur collar.

War Economy Myths

Lest we remain attached to the notion that wartime scarcities lowered our standard of living from 1941-1945, ponder this:

Even though the War Production Board implemented manufacturing bans on certain consumer products during World War II, it is important to realize that our economy grew substantially during this period due to nearly full employment and better cash wages that accrued from war jobs.

Even though Roosevelt warned the country that we could not sustain a consumer economy and a war economy at the same time, Americans did just that. While war spending jumped from $3.6 billion in 1940 (2%GNP) to a peak of $93.4 billion (nearly 50% GNP) in 1944, consumer (civilian) purchases of goods and services grew an astounding 12%.* The War Production Board estimated that labor productivity increased by 25% during the war years, even while millions of men and women were in uniform overseas. The economy was good due to the immense war production spending ending up in the pocketbooks of labor. This can happen again.

Need we fear that the American economy cannot undertake the Herculean task of converting from petroleum to a “next fuel” economy? I think not. With no apologies to the poster of the “hydrogen!” comment attached to “Full Service: 1950’s”, my money is on the Flux Capacitor.

* Bureau of Budget, The United Sates at War, (USGPO, Washington D.C., 1946)

"I must put a goat on."
Winston Churchill (possibly misheard)

Goober Pea

WW2 Rationing

Meat rationing was instituted in Washington D.C. on March 28, 1943. Rather than a set weight per person, families were allotted 16 points per person per week. Different cuts required different numbers of points. For example, a pound of steak or center cut pork chops was 8 points while a pound of hamburger was only 5 points. A pound of spare ribs was 4 points because of the extra bone. The program also included dairy products with a pound of butter requiring 8 points while margarine was 5 points per pound.

A Gallup poll conducted in mid-April of 1943 asked people to rank which rationed products were hardest to cut down on. Meat ranked first. The full list is below. I wonder if gasoline would be #1 today. The 1943 survey noted that "one-half of all car owners said that if necessary they could give up their automobiles without undue hardship."

   1. Meat
   2. Coffee
   3. Gasoline
   4. Sugar
   5. Butter
   6. Canned goods
   7. Shoes
   8. Fuel Oil
   9. Tires
10. Cheese

What this needs ...

This is so begging for a caption contest.

The human head...

Butcher: "The human head weighs eight, look!"
Girl Reporter: "Tee-hee!"


I'd have to say that 2 1/2 lbs per person a week, especially with no limit on poultry and fish, actually sounds pretty generous to me. I'm not vegan or anything close to it, but I still eat less than 2 lbs of beef a month. Then again, I remember once seeing one of the old wartime propaganda films that spoke of the Japanese diet as "low in fat and sugar" in tones that made it clear this was positive proof of unspeakable evil, and old recipe books give me the impression that people used to eat like every day was Thanksgiving---makes my gallbladder hurt just thinking about it, though I suppose they usually had more physical work to offset it.

"Girl Reporter"

It strikes me that the "girl reporter" looks to be at least 40.

Share the Meat

Meat was difficult to obtain during World War II. Much of the available supply was being diverted by the government to US and allied troops abroad, which meant less for civilians at home. The "Share the Meat" program urged Americans to limit their weekly consumption of beef to 2½ pounds per adult, 1½ pounds per child 6 to 12 years old, and ¾ pound per child under 6 years old. It appears you could eat all of the liver, kidneys, fish and poultry you could get.

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