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Food Availability and Consumption

ERS’s Food Availability data measure annual supplies of several hundred raw and semi-processed food commodities moving through the U.S. marketing system, providing per capita estimates of the types and amounts of food available to U.S. consumers over time and identifying shifts in eating patterns and food demand. A second data series covering 1970 onward—the Loss-Adjusted Food Availability data—adjusts for losses from the farmgate to the fork, including damaged products, spoilage, plate waste, and other losses to more closely approximate per capita consumption.

In 2011, 58.4 pounds of chicken per person on a boneless, edible basis were available for Americans to eat, compared to 54.5 pounds of beef. Chicken began its upward climb in the 1940s, overtaking pork in 1996 as the second most consumed meat. Since 1970, U.S. chicken availability per person has more than doubled.
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U.S. cheese availability stood at 33 pounds per person in 2011. Mozzarella edged out cheddar as America's favorite cheese, with the two cheeses together accounting for 63 percent of cheese availability in 2011. Per capita cheese availability has almost tripled since 1970, when it was 11.4 pounds per person. Cheese owes much of its growth to the spread of Italian and Mexican cuisines and to innovative, convenient packaging.
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Tomatoes and potatoes dominate U.S. vegetable consumption. In 2011, 86.3 pounds per person of tomatoes and 83 pounds of potatoes were available for Americans to eat. Three-quarters of the tomato supply was canned, and 58 percent of potatoes were frozen. French fries and pizza from fast-food restaurants contribute to the high consumption. The third highest vegetable, sweet corn, came in at 24.1 pounds per person.
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In 2011, 130.5 pounds per capita of caloric sweeteners were available for consumption by U.S. consumers, down from the per-person high of 151.3 pounds in 1999. Availability of total corn sweeteners (high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), glucose syrup, and dextrose) has fallen from 83.5 pounds per person in 1999 to 62.2 pounds in 2011, partly reflecting rising sales of bottled water at the expense of HFCS-sweetened soft drinks.
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Americans consumed an estimated 2,538 calories per person per day in 2010, up from 2,064 calories in 1970.  Grains (mainly refined grains) and added fats and oils contributed 424 calories to this 474-calorie increase. Dairy products were the only food group that contributed fewer calories in 2010. In 1970, the meat, eggs, and nuts group provided more daily calories than any other food group.
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While Americans are consuming more dairy products and vegetables than in 1970, the average U.S. diet still falls short of USDA’s MyPlate recommendations for three major food groups. Americans, on average, consumed more than the recommended amounts of meat and grains in 2011, but less than the MyPlate-recommended amounts of vegetables, dairy products, and fruit.
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Americans ate an average of 47.8 pounds of fresh fruit per person in 2011, up from 37.2 pounds in 1970. While bananas and apples still top the list of most popular fresh fruits, the amount of bananas consumed grew between 1970 and 2011, and consumption of fresh apples declined. Watermelons and grapes moved up in the rankings, strawberries replaced grapefruit, and per-person consumption of fresh oranges fell.
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Last updated: Thursday, November 07, 2013

For more information contact: Rosanna Mentzer Morrison

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