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Food Markets & Prices

  • Finding

    Food Prices—Taking the Long-Term View

    U.S. food price inflation has been falling, on average, over the past several decades. Since 2010, food prices have risen by an average of 2.1 percent a year—in sharp contrast with the 1970s when the all food Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased by an average of 8.1 percent per year.
  • Feature

    Less Eating Out, Improved Diets, and More Family Meals in the Wake of the Great Recession

    Between 2005 and 2010, Americans experienced large changes in employment and income that affected their food expenditures and intake. Once demographic characteristics unrelated to the Great Recession are controlled for, food-away-from-home (FAFH) calories among working-age adults declined about 15 percent, while the number of meals and snacks from FAFH declined 12 percent.
  • Finding

    Impact of Oil Prices on Produce Prices Depends on Route and Mode of Transportation

    ERS researchers estimated that a hypothetical doubling of oil prices would be expected to increase wholesale prices for six fresh fruits and vegetables—asparagus, cantaloupes, bell peppers, grapes, oranges, and tomatoes—by 3 to 27 percent depending on the shipping route.
  • Feature

    USDA’s Food Assistance Programs: Legacies of the War on Poverty

    USDA’s food and nutrition assistance programs—many of which were conceived half a century ago—are still some of the Federal Government’s most important means of fighting poverty and improving the economic well-being of needy Americans.
  • Finding

    The Relationship Between Food Insecurity, Conflict, and Food Price Shocks in Afghanistan

    An analysis of the effects of conflict on food security in Afghanistan reveals no evidence that high-conflict provinces are more food insecure.
  • Statistic

    ERS Food Dollar Series Allows an Indepth Look at Farm Level Components of the U.S. Food Dollar

    Since 1993, the farm share of each dollar spent on domestically produced food has mostly trended downward, beginning the period at 18.4 cents and remaining below 16 cents since 2000. In 2011, the farm share was 15.5 cents, up from 14.1 cents in 2010 and comparable with levels in 2007-08.
  • Feature

    Disability Is an Important Risk Factor for Food Insecurity

    Recent ERS research found that one-third of U.S. households with a working-age adult who was unable to work due to a disability were food insecure in 2009-10. Disability has emerged as one of the strongest known factors that affect a household’s food security.
  • Feature

    Americans’ Food Choices at Home and Away: How Do They Compare With Recommendations?

    Grocery store purchase data reveal that Americans underspend on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and overspend on refined grains, fats, and sugars/sweets, compared with USDA's dietary recommendations, a pattern that showed little change from 1998 to 2006. Food choices when eating out are even more of a nutritional concern.
  • Statistic

    On the Map: Farmers’ Markets Concentrated in Metro Counties

    The 143 U.S. counties with more than 10 farmers' markets account for almost 40 percent of the Nation's farmers' markets. All but 10 are metro-designated counties where higher population concentrations provide a larger customer base.
  • Finding

    Food Processing Costs Per Food-at-Home Dollar Rose Sharply in 2009 and 2010

    In 2010, about 35 cents from each dollar that U.S. consumers spent on food at grocery and other retail foodstores went to food processing establishments like flour mills, meatpacking plants, and dairy processors. This equates to an increase of around 14 percent since 2007, when the share was about 31 cents per dollar spent.
  • Feature

    What Role Do Food and Beverage Prices Have on Diet and Health Outcomes?

    Food preferences, nutrition knowledge, and access to stores and restaurants all share a role with food prices in consumers’ food purchasing decisions and related health outcomes. Price changes have limited effects on food choices and health outcomes, but the effects may be larger when paired with information and other reinforcing policies and programs.
  • Statistic

    In the Long Run: Public Expenditures Stable at Around 6 Percent of Total Food Spending Since 1990

    In 2010, families and individuals accounted for 82.8 percent of the $1.2 trillion in total U.S. food spending.
  • Finding

    Retail Dairy Prices Respond Differently to Farm Milk Price Shocks

    ERS model results show that farm milk price shocks are not transmitted instantaneously to retail for whole milk or Cheddar cheese. The nature of price transmission is also very different for whole milk and Cheddar cheese.
  • Finding

    Fresh Vegetables and Salty Snacks Cost More in Urban Locales

    ERS examined geographic variation in retail prices for two foods that differ in handling requirements and perishability, as well as in nutritional profiles--fresh vegetables and salty snacks. Findings show that households are likely to face higher prices for each of these foods when certain economic and demographic conditions exist in their community.
  • Finding

    Food Retailers Adjust Private-Label Prices as Costs and Consumer Demand Change

    ERS researchers examined nonsale prices of both private-label (store brand) foods and national brands in two periods: May 2008 to June 2009 and July 2009 to August 2010. Private label prices fluctuated more than prices of national brands between the recessionary period and post-recession period.
  • Finding

    A Wide Variety of Fruit and Vegetables Are Affordable for SNAP Recipients

    Recent ERS research suggests that low-income Americans can meet the Dietary Guidelines for fruit and vegetable consumption with a wide selection of fresh and processed products and stay within a limited budget.
  • Feature

    Why Another Food Commodity Price Spike?

    Food prices jumped in 2010-11, the second price spike within 3 years. Longer term financial, agricultural, and demographic trends, exacerbated by short-term production shortfalls, set up conditions for the increases.
  • Feature

    Food Spending Adjustments During Recessionary Times

    Faced with falling incomes and economic uncertainty, many Americans economized on their food purchases during the 2007-09 recession, particularly on food away from home.
  • Finding

    Consumers Cut Back on Convenience but not Necessarily Quantity, When Incomes Fall

    ERS researchers find that convenience is one food characteristic for which recession-constrained consumers will reduce expenditures. Specifically, sales of bagged leafy greens decrease relative to sales of unpackaged leafy greens when income levels fall.
  • Statistic

    A New Look at Where Our Food Dollars Go

    In February 2011, ERS introduced a new data product called the food dollar series that uses BLS annual input-output tables to provide a more complete accounting of U.S. food spending at both grocery stores and eating places.
  • Finding

    Food Commodity Cost Pass-Through to Food Prices Not Uniform

    A significant portion of farm price changes typically shows up in wholesale wheat flour and beef prices. Retail beef and bread prices, in contrast, have a more complicated and often times less direct response to wholesale price changes.
  • Feature

    Will Calorie Labeling in Restaurants Make a Difference?

    A 2010 Federal law will require U.S. chain restaurants to display calorie information on their menus and menu boards. Will consumers use this information to make healthier food choices?
  • Statistic

    In the Long Run: Food Spending Dipped During Recession

    U.S. expenditures on food at home and away from home grew over the past 50 years, but food-away-from-home expenditures increased more rapidly. During the recent recession, however, inflation-adjusted spending on both food at home and away from home fell.
  • Finding

    Market Share Affects Price Differences Between Discount and Traditional Food Retailers

    In a recent ERS study, researchers found that differences in prices at traditional versus nontraditional food retailers were smaller in areas where nontraditional food retailers had large market shares.
  • Statistic

    Indicators

    Indicators tables from the September 2010 issue of Amber Waves magazine.
  • Finding

    Price-Reducing Coupons Have a Dual Effect on Fruit and Vegetable Purchases

    A recent ERS study examined the use of price-reducing coupons to encourage fruit and vegetable consumption. The study found that coupon effectiveness depends on the amount of the discount and the share of households that redeem the coupons.
  • Feature

    Fuel for Food: Energy Use in the U.S. Food System

    Population growth, higher per capita food expenditures, and greater reliance on energy-using technologies boosted food-related energy consumption in 1997 to 2002.
  • Statistic

    In the Long Run: Food Product Introductions Buck Long-Term Trend

    U.S. food and beverage product introductions have increased for most of the last decade and a half. In 2009, however, U.S. food and beverage product introductions fell by 3,519 to 19,047, the second consecutive yearly reduction and the largest in at least 15 years.
  • Statistic

    Indicators

    Selected statistics on agriculture and trade, diet and health, natural resources, and rural America.
  • Statistic

    Retail Dairy Prices Fluctuate With Farm Value of Milk

    In the late 1990s, a nearly two-decade decline in farm share of retail dairy prices slowed and in 2000-2008, farm share fluctuated between 26 and 35 percent. Consumers saw modest increases in dairy prices over this period until the 2007-08 jump in food price inflation.
  • Finding

    Rising Food Prices and Economic Uncertainty Take Toll on Traditional Grocers

    As prices for many food staples rose sharply in 2007 and 2008, consumers turned to discount supermarkets and non-traditional grocers to reduce their grocery spending. Price-oriented, limited assortment supermarkets and superwarehouse supermarkets posted higher 2007 sales growth than the average sales growth for all supermarkets.
  • Statistic

    Behind the Data: Validation Study Tests Accuracy of Homescan Data

    Nielsen Homescan data provide a wealth of information about household purchasing patterns, allowing researchers to address questions relating to the dynamics of retail food markets. Households participating in the Homescan panel use a scanner to record prices and quantities of food products purchased at a wide variety of stores. ERS and other researchers have used these data to understand consumer purchase behavior. However, some researchers question the credibility of the data since the data are self-recorded and the recording process is time consuming.
  • Finding

    Working Parents Outsource Children’s Meals

    Virtually all households take the dollar cost of food into account when making food choices. But for some households, the time involved in planning, shopping for, and preparing a meal is also an important consideration. Findings from the Eating & Health Module of the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) indicate that many working parents free up time by "outsourcing" their children's meals--that is, they purchase prepared meals for their children at school or day care.
  • Statistic

    Indicators

    Indicators table from March 2009 issue of Amber Waves.
  • Statistic

    Indicators

    Indicators charts from the June 2008 issue of Amber Waves
  • Statistic

    On The Map

    ERS estimates of retail food price variation show that average prices for 11 grocery store items were 8 percent higher than the national average in the Northeast and 6 percent lower in the Midwest for the years 2004-07.
  • Feature

    Corn Prices Near Record High, But What About Food Costs?

    Ethanol's impact on retail food prices depends on how long the increased demand for corn drives up farm corn prices and the extent to which higher corn prices are passed through to retail. ERS research traces the effect of higher corn prices on U.S. retail food prices by analyzing data on price trends and price response of corn-dependent food to cost changes
  • Feature

    Rising Food Prices Intensify Food Insecurity in Developing Countries

    Recent hikes in oil prices have raised serious concerns in low-income countries, both because of the financial burden of the higher energy import bill and potential constraints on imports of necessities like food and raw materials. Higher oil prices also have sparked energy security concerns worldwide, increasing the demand for biofuel production.