Food Health and Income: Total food supplies and expenditure on food

Estimates of total food supplies in 1909-13 and 1924-28 were given by Sir Alfred Flux (14). Independent estimates were made by Mr. A. E. Feavearyear for 1924-27 and 1932 (13). Mr. Feavearyear gives not only total consumption, but estimates of total national expenditure at retail prices on each food. With his assistance similar estimates have been compiled by the Market Supply Committee for 1934 and are given in summarised form in Table 1. Detailed figures for 1909-13, 1924-28 and 1934, showing the proportions produced at home and imported and the value in terms of calories and proximate principles, are given in Appendices III and IV.

It will be seen that the nation spends on food roughly £1,075 millions per annum or about 9s. per head per week. The total national income for 1934 has been estimated at £3,750 millions, or about 30s. per head per week. Hence expenditure on food accounts for rather less than one-third of the total national income.

The most expensive items are :—total meat, £294. 5 millions; fruit, £119 millions; and milk, including condensed milk and cream, £106 millions. Bread and cereals account for less than 9 per cent, of the total, and meat and fish for over 32 per cent.

Meat, fish, eggs, milk and cheese, which are the sources of animal protein, account for nearly half the total expenditure. Vegetables other than potatoes contribute less to the total than sugar, though they are more important for health.

Table 1
Commodity Total Supply Total Retail Value Per head per week Per head per week
Thousand Tons Million £ ozs. d.
Total Meat 3001 294.5 44.0 29.1
Fish 902 52 13.2 5.1
Bread 3000 51 44.0 5.0
Flour 1850 32 27.1 3.1
Other Cereals 286 6 4.2 0.5
Eggs Millions7156 42 No.2.9 4.1
Egg Products 41 2.5 0.6 0.2
Milk, Fresh Million gals860 89 pints2.8 8.7
Milk, Condensed 240 10 3.5 1.0
Butter 533 54.5 7.8 5.4
Cheese 221 23 3.2 2.3
Cream 34 7 0.5 0.7
Margarine 164 8 2.4 0.8
Lard 187 11 2.7 1.1
Fruit 2427 119 35.1 11.7
Potatoes (excluding seed) 4400 37 64.5 3.6
Other vegetables 2085 40 30.2 3.9
Sugar 1917 49 27.7 4.8
Tea, Cofee & Cocoa 278 48 4.0 4.7
Total value of primary foodstuffs 974.5 95.8
Add for preparation of complex food stuffs, eg jam, confectionery, cakes, biscuits etc. 100.5 9.9
Totals 1075 105.7

The quantity given for meat is computed from dressed carcase weights and thus, exceeds the weight of meat, as purchased in the shop, by the quantity of bone, trimmings and waste not sold for human consumption. An allowance of perhaps 20 per cent, should be made on beef and veal, and of not more than 5 per cent, on other meats.

The weight given for fish is that of the total supply as recorded at the ports, and thus includes heads, tails and inedible offal, in addition to a fluctuating and unknown quantity which is not sold for human consumption. The deduction to be made on this score may be as much as 30 per cent.

Separate estimates are given for bread and flour, but the figure for flour includes an unknown quantity used for home baking of bread. Using the factor 77 per cent, for converting bread into flour, the total for all flour is 4,150,000 tons.

The estimate of fresh milk consumption given here is based upon the Milk Marketing Boards’ figures, which are lower by about 10 per cent, than the estimates of the Agricultural Departments based upon the number and yield of cows. The possible error involved has considerable significance from the nutritional standpoint, especially with regard to calcium supply.

The figure of 187,000 tons for lard excludes lard produced from pigs killed in the United Kingdom, since this is already included in the weight of home-produced pig meat. In the case of home-produced crops, including potatoes and vegetables, a deduction has been made for seed and wastage on farms, but allotment produce and estimated consumption on farms have been included.

In estimating total expenditure on these quantities at retail prices, it is impossible to attain a high degree of precision. For most commodities there are no complete records of retail prices covering all grades and all areas. The Ministry of Labour’s retail prices, collected in connection with the Cost of Living index, are the most useful source of material; but they have to be used with care since they consist of prices of particular grades corresponding with the average items purchased by working-class households in the 1904 budget enquiry, and do not purport to give an average weighted price of all grades and qualities. Mr. Feavearyear based his estimates for 1932 largely on market surveys undertaken by the Empire Marketing Board, and he has supplied unpublished estimates for 1934, which have been checked against the Ministry of Labour’s Cost of Living figures.

The total supply of each food is estimated at the average retail price at which it is sold as such in the shops. The added value given to the primary products by manufacturing processes is allowed for in a quantity added at the end “for preparation of complex foodstuffs,” which is based upon Census of Production figures. Thus, the ingredients of cakes, biscuits, jams and confectionery, viz., flour, sugar, eggs and fruit, are included at their retail value under each item, and the aggregate added value of all the made-up products is estimated separately.