Source: The Australian, 24 November, 1998, p.5

Nation gets taste for change

 Social affairs writer 
THE tastebuds of the nation 
aren't what they used to be. 
Whereas once we were steadfastly 
devoted to beef, rejected anything 
softer than full-strength beer and 
smothered our sandwiches in butter, 
today's palates prefer chicken, light 
beers, coffee and margarine. 
It is an evolution triggered by 
everything from multiculturalism 
and public health campaigns to the 
boom in takeaway food outlets and 
the greater number of women in the 
Whatever the underlying causes, 
data released yesterday by the Aust- 
ralian Bureau of Statistics reveals 
trends, such as the shift to low- 
alcohol beers and the growing pop- 
ularity of chicken, show no signs of 
More than a quarter of all beer 
consumed is now light beer, the 
highest level ever recorded. 
This is despite a fall in both full- 
strength and total beer consumption. 
Australians consumed an average 
of 93 litres of full-strength beer in 
1997-98, down from 102 litres in 1992-93 
and a whopping 133.2 litres in 1978-79 
(before the light alternative was 
widely available). 
Titled Apparent Consumption of 
Selected Foodstuffs 1997-98, the pub- 
lication gives the latest information 
on consumption of food and drink. 
Beef is still the most popular meat 
(we consume an average of 37kg a 
year) but consumption levels tend to 
fluctuate and are well down on the 
50kg and 60kg a year we consumed in 
the 1930s, 40s and 50s. 
Poultry consumption, on the other 
hand, continues to climb, reaching 
30kg per person in 97-98, up from 
26.5kg in 1992-93 and just 8.3kg in the 
Joanne Gibbons, from the ABS, 
says this reflects the growing diver- 
sity of chicken products and the 
speed they can be prepared by work- 
ing families. 
The ABS reveals considerable fluc- 
tuations in the consumption levels of 
many products from year to year, 
with butter consumption, for exam- 
ple, up 3.5 per cent on 1996-97 but 
down on the levels recorded in 
It is only by comparing the data 
over several decades that reliable 
trends emerge. 
This longer-term approach reveals 
tea and coffee consumption, while 
static in the past few years (at 0.8kg 
and 2.3kg respectively), has changed 
markedly over the years, with people 
in the 1950s drinking 2.7kg of tea and 
just 0.6kg of coffee. 
Consumption of offal reached a 
peak in the 1970s at 5.9kg per year per 
person, and has steadily declined to 
1.2kg in 1997-98. 
Our penchant for milk also has 
waned, from 128 litres per person in 
the mid-1950s to a little over 100 litres 
in the 1970s, 80s and 90s.

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