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 2014.
In 2014, 58.7 pounds of chicken per person on a boneless, edible basis were available for Americans to eat, compared to 51.5 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.
In 2014, 131.0 pounds per person of caloric sweeteners were available for consumption by U.S. consumers, down from a high of 153.1 pounds in 1999. Availability of total corn sweeteners (high-fructose corn syrup, glucose syrup, and dextrose) fell from 85.2 pounds per person in 1999 to 60.7 pounds in 2014, while refined sugar (cane and beet) surpassed it in 2011, reaching 68.3 pounds per person in 2014.
According to ERS’s loss-adjusted food availability data, Americans consumed 46.7 pounds per person of potatoes and 31.4 pounds of tomatoes in 2014. Half of potato consumption was fresh, while 59 percent of tomato consumption was canned. French fries and pizza contribute to the high consumption of these two vegetables. The third highest vegetable—onions—came in at 7.5 pounds per person.
Americans consumed an average of 119.9 pounds of fresh and processed fruit per person in 2014, down from a high of 132.1 pounds in 1999. Apples (11.6 pounds per person) and bananas (11.3 pounds per person) top the list of most popular fresh fruits. Orange juice consumption at 31.3 pounds (3.6 gallons) per person in 2014, combined with fresh oranges at 3 pounds per person, puts oranges in the #1 spot for total fruit consumption.
According to ERS’s loss-adjusted food availability data, Americans consumed 1.5 cup-equivalents of dairy products per person per day in 1974 and in 2014—half the recommended amount for a 2,000-calorie diet. While overall quantity is the same, the mix has changed. Fluid milk consumption has fallen from 0.9 to 0.6 cup per person per day, while cheese consumption has doubled.