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 from the meat, eggs, and nuts group and the grains group in 2017.
In 2017, 64.1 pounds of chicken per person on a boneless, edible basis were available for Americans to eat, compared to 54.3 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 2017, 16.1 pounds of fish and shellfish per person were available for consumption.
In 2018, 35.2 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 21.7 pounds per person in 1988, according to ERS’s food availability data. Wheat flour availability was 132.1 pounds per person in 2018, below its peak of 146.8 pounds in 1997.
In 2017, 126.6 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 almost 56 pounds in 2017, while refined sugar (cane and beet) surpassed it in 2010, reaching 69.3 pounds per person in 2017.
Dairy products available for consumption after adjusting for losses totaled 1.5 cup-equivalents of dairy products per person per day in 1977 and in 2017—half the recommended amount for a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet. While overall quantity is the same, the mix has changed. Loss-adjusted availability of fluid milk has fallen from 0.9 to 0.5 cup per person per day, while loss-adjusted cheese availability has doubled.
In 2017, 49.2 pounds of potatoes per person and 28.7 pounds for tomatoes per person were available for consumption after adjusting for losses. Forty-two percent of loss-adjusted potato availability was frozen and 56 percent of loss-adjusted tomato availability 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 11.3 pounds per person.
Availability of fresh and processed fruit for consumption after adjusting for losses totaled 113.8 pounds per person in 2017, down from a high of 142.1 pounds in 1999. Loss-adjusted apple juice availability at 13.8 pounds (1.6 gallons) per person in 2017, combined with fresh apples at roughly 10 pounds per person and canned, dried, and frozen apples (3.4 pounds per person), puts apples in the #1 spot for total fruit consumption. Bananas (14.1 pounds per person) top the list of most popular fresh fruits, while orange juice (18.2 pounds or 2.1 gallons) is America’s favorite juice.