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.
While Americans are consuming more vegetables and fruit than in 1970, the average U.S. diet still falls short of the recommendations in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans for these major food groups. Americans, on average, consumed more than the recommended amounts of meat, eggs, and nuts and grains in 2015.
In 2015, 62.6 pounds of chicken per person on a boneless, edible basis were available for Americans to eat, compared to 51.4 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. In 2015, 15.5 pounds of fish and shellfish per person were available for consumption.
In 2015, 34 pounds per person of corn products (flour and meal, hominy and grits, and food starch) were available for consumption in the United States, up from 10.8 pounds per person in 1975, according to ERS’s food availability data. Wheat flour availability was 134 pounds per person in 2015—20 pounds higher than in 1975, but a decline from levels in the late 1990s.
In 2015, 129 pounds per person of caloric sweeteners were available for consumption by U.S. consumers, down from a high of 151.5 pounds in 1999. Availability of total corn sweeteners (high-fructose corn syrup, glucose syrup, and dextrose) fell from 83.6 pounds per person in 1999 to 57.7 pounds in 2015, while refined sugar (cane and beet) surpassed it in 2011, reaching 69.1 pounds per person in 2015.
According to ERS’s loss-adjusted food availability data, Americans consumed 1.5 cup-equivalents of dairy products per person per day in 1975 and in 2015—half the recommended amount for a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet. While overall quantity is the same, the mix has changed. Fluid milk consumption has fallen from 0.9 to 0.5 cup per person per day, while cheese consumption has doubled.
According to ERS’s loss-adjusted food availability data, Americans consumed 48.3 pounds per person of potatoes and 28.3 pounds of tomatoes in 2015. Just over 40 percent of potato consumption was frozen and 55 percent of tomato consumption was canned, as French fries and pizza sauce contribute to the high consumption of these two vegetables. The third highest vegetable—onions—came in at 7.7 pounds per person.
Americans consumed an average of 115.4 pounds of fresh and processed fruit per person in 2015, down from a high of 137.4 pounds in 1999. Apple juice consumption at 14 pounds (1.6 gallons) per person in 2015, combined with fresh apples at 10.7 pounds per person and canned, dried, and frozen apples (3.3 pounds per person), puts apples in the #1 spot for total fruit consumption. Bananas (11.4 pounds per person) top the list of most popular fresh fruits while orange juice leads juice consumption at 23.7 pounds (2.7 gallons).