Source: The Australian, 24 November, 1998, p.5
MICHELLE GUNN 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 workforce. 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 slowing. 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 1960s. 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 1993-95. 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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