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Commodity Consumption by Population Characteristics


Food Consumption

ERS tracks the supply of food available for consumption in the United States and examines consumer food preferences by age, income, region, race, place where food is eaten, and other characteristics. Descriptive statistics of commodity consumption help to inform growers about who consumes their commodities, how and where their commodities are used, and how much is consumed. This information facilitates improved promotion strategies by the food and agriculture industry. In addition, USDA agencies have used commodity consumption data for regulatory analyses.

Commodity Consumption Studies: 1994-1998

USDA has conducted periodic surveys of household and individual food intakes in the United States since the 1930s.  In these surveys, respondents provided a list of foods consumed as well as information on where and how much of each food was eaten.  Various economic, social, and demographic characteristics were also collected for the respondent and his/her household.

ERS researchers have used several technical databases from USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) to analyze commodity consumption using data collected under the 1994-1998 Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals (CSFII). These databases include recipes, the Pyramid Servings Database, and the Food Commodity Intake Database.  A series of analyses describing commodity consumption by age, income, region, race, and eating location was completed between 2001 and 2007 (see Eating Patterns: Who Eats What, Where, and How Much). Building upon these descriptive studies, ERS researchers conducted regression analyses to predict future food and commodity consumption (see Food and Agricultural Commodity Consumption in the United States: Looking Ahead to 2020).

Food and Commodity Consumption Studies: 1999-2002

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has conducted food consumption studies similar to those conducted by USDA. Since 2002, USDA and HHS have jointly conducted an integrated food consumption survey for the Nation, titled What We Eat in America (WWEIA), as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). 

ERS and ARS have collaborated to develop the Food Intakes Converted to Retail Commodities Databases (FICRCD) to provide commodity content for food intake data as recorded in national dietary surveys.  Three FICRCD databases were released in August 2011:

  • FICRCD: 1994-1998, for data collected from USDA's 1994-1998 Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals (CSFII),
  • FICRCD 1999-2000, for data collected from HHS's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 1999-2000, and
  • FICRCD 2001-2002, for data collected from the integrated USDA-HHS National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2001-2002. 

Results from the Food Intakes Converted to Retail Commodities Database (FICRCD)

With the release of the FICRCD data, commodity consumption by age and gender has been tabulated for the three surveys--1994-1998, 1999-2000, and 2001-2002. The 1999-2000 and 2001-2002 NHANES data were combined to allow reporting of commodity consumption by household income, age and gender, body weight status, race and ethnicity, and education attainment as well as by the location where foods were eaten. The results (FICRCD results) are used to disaggregate ERS's Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System by the same delineations.  The disaggregated food availability data are reported in 7 tables and the FICRCD results (means and standard errors) are reported in 7 tables. The sample sizes for NHANES 1999-2002 by respondents' characteristics are summarized in a table. 

Some major findings are highlighted below.

  • U.S. consumption of fruits and vegetables rises with income. The differences between low-income households  (less than 185 percent of the poverty line) and high-income households (greater than 300 percent of the poverty line) are particularly significant.
  • Children consume more apples than adults, mainly in the form of apple juice. Seventy percent of apple consumption among children age 2-19 comes from apple juice, compared with 62 percent for adults.
  • Milk consumption correlates with educational attainment, with the consumption of skim milk being highly associated with education. Adults who attended college consumed 19 percent more milk than those who did not finish high school. The consumption of skim milk among college-educated adults was more than double the amount consumed by those who dropped out of high school.
  • Black Americans consume the largest amounts of pork, chicken, turkey, and fish, whereas Hispanics consume the largest amount of eggs.
  • Healthy-weight adults consume more vegetables than overweight and obese adults, but the differences are not statistically significant.


Last updated: Wednesday, August 08, 2012

For more information contact: Biing-Hwan Lin