1944: World War II Rationing Of Most Meat Grades Officially Ends

By | May 1, 2020

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(Daily Mail)

During the onslaught of World War II, Americans at home tightened their belts and sacrificed many of their favorite meals when they were asked to ration much-needed supplies like meat, butter, sugar, and milk. It was a necessity for the war effort, as soldiers couldn't fight their battles for peace in Europe and Japan without sustenance, but when it officially came to an end, people were pumped. They could finally eat a steak dinner again and not worry about neighborhood whispers if they put on a pot roast.

Fear Of Shortage

The Food Rationing Program began in early 1942, and Americans who weren't prepared saw their lives change overnight. People were already being asked to conserve gas, clothing, and food to help servicemen overseas, but the government had to step in to make sure the wealthy weren't buying up all of the most useful commodities. This fear of shortages wasn't unfounded—we've even seen it happen in times of peace. During the outbreak of COVID-19, many people couldn't find toilet paper for months.

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(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration/Public domain)

A Tough But Simple System

Obviously, there were no computers during World War II, so complying with the nation's rationing regulations involved what we would consider an exotically analog system today. A member of each family had to register for rationing books which included removable stamps that were good for different types of items, like sugar, meat, oil, butter, etc. If you didn't have a stamp for a particular item, you couldn’t buy it. Meat, butter, and oil were all “red stamp” items, meaning that they were in the highest demand overseas. Once a family's ration stamps ran out, they weren't allowed to buy that specific food until the next ration book arrived. This strict law forced homemakers to get creative with their menus.