Tuesday, 27 February 2018

The food value of beer

One of the things teperance nutcases kept banging on about was the destruction of food in producing alcoholic beverages.

Especially in wartime. They saw it as a handy excuse to press for total prohibition. Excpet there's one massive flaw in the argument: turning grain into beer doesn't destroy its food value.

The article below gives the Food Controllers detailed response to this allegation. While at the same time refusing to allow more beer to be brewed in munitions areas.

Aberavon, Port Talbot, and District Licensed Viituallers’ Association forwarded the Food Controller a resolution pointing out the fact that a large number men had been brought to their district on war work, and that the restriction of the output of beer, therefore, caused greater hardship to the locality than was the case in districts where the adult male population had been greatly reduced by recruiting and migration to munition areas.

In reply the Ministry of Food stated that the various questions arising out of the consumption alcoholic beverages and the materials used in their manufacture were constantly occupying the attention of the Ministry. Having set out the Various representations made on the subject, the letter adds:—

In view of these conflicting representations, a careful survey has been made of all facts of the case, and the following conclusions have resulted:-

1. The present consumption the manufacture of alcoholic beverages less than one-third of the consumption in the pre-war period. This is due  (1) to the limitation of brewing, and (2) to the  prohibition of the distillation spirits. The effect has been to reduce the average alcoholic content of beer by nearly 30 per cent., and a considerable quantity beer at present brewed now contains only about 2 per cent. of absolute alcohol, as compared with 1 per cent. which is permitted non-intoxicating beverages.

2. The total waste of food due to the use of grain and saccharine substances in brewing at the present restricted rate is somewhat less than per cent. of the total food supply of the ration, or about equivalent to one week’s total of food in full year. This result is arrived at by crediting to beer only the solid food which it contains and allowing no food value to alcohol. As between the use of grain in brewing and the production of meat or milk, solid food recovered in brewing (excluding the alcohol) is about twice great that recovered in meat or milk from the same quantity of grain. This due to the fact that the conversion grain into meat or milk only between one-sixth and one-fourth of the food value of the grain is recovered in the meat or milk. The prohibition

3. The prohibition of brewing would involve immediately the substitution of other beverages in the dietary those who at present consume beer, and since food material is used in most beverages the whole of the materials used in brewing could not be saved unless all beer drinkers substituted water as a beverage.

The actual saving, if any, would be the difference between the food materials used in brewing and that which would be consumed in other beverages such as tea, coffee, and cocoa, with added milk and sugar. If additional supplies of these commodities were not obtainable, the increased consumption of them in re-placement of beer would lessen the present supply available for non-beer drinkers and especially for women and children.

The estimated domestic consumption of milk in fluid gallons in the pre-war period was considerably greater than the present bulk of beer brewed. Probably at present it is approximately the same, viz., at the rate of about half a pint per head per day of the entire population, men, women, and children.

If the total grain used in brewing at present were all diverted to milking cows or used to re-place other foodstuffs used for milk production, the additional milk supply could probably be increased by about 23 per cent., on the other hand, a corresponding or possibly greater quantity might be consumed in tea, coffee, and cocoa used in re-placement of beer. The saccharine substances used in brewing are not of kind which are at present used for domestic purposes, and even if they Could all be diverted to other food uses than brewing, they would provide less than 1 oz. per week per head of the whole population.

4. The question whether, in case it becomes necessary to ration bread, there should be a deduction from the bread ration corresponding to the beer consumed by individuals, and, indeed, the subject of alternative rations generally, is being fully considered. It is thought by some authorities that any scheme of alternative rations to beer should aim at putting the various classes of consumers on a level in respect to beverages rather than to make beer and bread alternative. In this connection it is obvious that the needs of women and children would require be safeguarded as far as possible. The considerations above noted make it doubtful whether this would result from the further limitation of the supply of beer.

5. The reply to the contention that the present quantity of beer is inadequate is that any increased supply would inevitably under existing conditions involve less of other foodstuffs, and would, therefore, inflict hardship upon the non-beer drinking population. The maintenance of the food supply at its present level is already a matter of considerable difficulty, and it is therefore, quite impossible to increase the supply of any commodity involving use foodstuffs to any particular section of the community. It will be obvious that the problems involved are of a very intricate character, but in any case the principle of, equity to all classes of the population will be considered far as is practicable. Mutual toleration must be exercised by all classes, and especially between those whose habits in the consumption of food and drink are at present widely divergent.

Any measures considered necessary will be devised with a view to the conclusion the war, and the Food Controller relies on all classes to comply with them in this spirit."
Western Mail - Tuesday 09 April 1918, page 3.

It had crossed my mind before that with millions of youn men out of the country, a big proportion of beer drinkers were gone. You would expect a smaller supply of beer to have been adequate. Unless, of course, like Port Talbot or Carlisle, the population had been swollen by an influx of minutions workers.

Even - unfoundedly, in my opinion - excluding the food value of the alcohol, it was still more efficient to grain grain into beer than into milk. Pretty obvious, when you think about it. A lot of the food value is used to keep the cows warm and moving around. That's one of the reasons meat production was so limited during WW II. The government knew it was an inefficient use of scarce food resources.

That beer drinkers would have to find a replacement drink if there was no beer is not a point I'd considered before. It makes sense, though. Both for refreshment and for nourishment.

There were many in government during WW I - espcially in Lloyd George's own Liberal party - who were sympathetic to the temperance cause. Thankfully, the pragmatists were victorious over the ideologues and beer continued to be brewed. The effect on morale - as Churchill realised in WW II - would have been disastrous.

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