ERS Charts of Note
Monday, July 19, 2021
A 2020 USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) study analyzed data publicly released for the first time in March 2019 and found that blood plasma levels of trans fats among youth fell by more than three-fifths (61.9 percent) from 1999-2000 to 2009-2010. Trans fats raise artery-clogging “bad” cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein, or LDL) levels and lower “good” cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein, or HDL) levels. Thus, increased intake of trans fats can result in an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease. The decrease in blood plasma levels of trans fats among youth came after a recommendation in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans to limit consumption of trans fats and a Federal Government requirement that trans fats content be included on packaged food labels. While young people are at a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease than adults, intake of trans fats in early childhood and adolescence could set in motion processes that lead to the disease in adulthood. Data on blood plasma levels of trans fats of children (ages 6-11 years) and adolescents (ages 12-19 years) living in the United States were drawn from the 1999-2000 and 2009-2010 waves of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a nationally representative survey that assesses the health and nutritional status of the U.S. population. Blood plasma levels of the type of trans fat often found in partially hydrogenated oils fell by about two-thirds (67.2 percent) from 1999-2000 to 2009-2010, compared with a 60.5 percent decline in blood plasma levels of the type often found in dairy products. This chart appears in the ERS’ Amber Waves article, Trans Fat Levels Among U.S. Youth Fell From 1999 to 2010, June 2021. See also an Amber Waves finding from June 2017, Blood Levels of Trans Fats Among American Adults Fell from 1999 to 2010.
Friday, June 4, 2021
Although people in the United States are eating more vegetables and fruit than they did in 1970, the average U.S. diet still falls short of Federal recommendations for these two major food groups, as well as for dairy, as provided in the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. In contrast to the recommended daily 2.5 cups of vegetables on a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet, people in the United States consumed an average of 1.9 cups in 2018, according to food availability data from the USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS). This represents 76 percent of the recommended amount, up from 63 percent in 1970. In 2018, U.S. consumers ate or drank an average of 1.5 cups of dairy products per day—50 percent of the recommended 3 cups and a decrease from 1.6 cups in 1970. Fruit consumption in the United States was the farthest below guidance at 41 percent of the recommended 2 cups. On average, U.S. consumption of foods in the meat, eggs, and nuts category and of grains in 2018 exceeded recommended amounts. The data for this chart come from the Loss-Adjusted Food Availability data series in ERS's Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System.
Monday, May 3, 2021
In 2019, 123.2 pounds per person of caloric sweeteners were available for consumption by U.S. consumers, a 19 percent decrease from a high of 151.5 pounds per person in 1999. According to the USDA, Economic Research Service’s (ERS) Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System, availability of total corn sweeteners (high-fructose corn syrup, glucose syrup, and dextrose) contributed to the drop, falling from its peak of 83.6 pounds per person in 1999 to 52.7 pounds per person in 2019. High corn prices, price competition with refined cane and beet sugars and other caloric sweeteners, as well as shifting preferences among consumers and food manufacturers have contributed to this decline. Availability of refined cane and beet sugars fell from 102.3 pounds per person in 1972 to 60.0 pounds per person in 1986, then remained relatively flat for the next two and a half decades. Refined sugar availability began to rise in 2010, surpassing corn sweetener availability and reaching 68.4 pounds per person in 2019. Rising honey imports have contributed to recent increases in per capita honey availability, according to ERS’s Sugars and Sweeteners Yearbook Tables. In 2019, per capita honey availability stood at 1.3 pounds and per capita availability of edible syrups was 0.8 pounds. This chart is from ERS’s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials data product, updated January 14, 2021.
Wednesday, March 3, 2021
The U.S. Federal Government announced social distancing guidelines in March 2020 to slow the spread of COVID-19, and many U.S. jurisdictions followed by issuing stay-at-home orders. As a result, many people have been working from home since then, which prompts the question: Do individuals who work from home spend time on their daily tasks differently than those who work away from home? While USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) researchers do not have time-use data from the COVID-19 period for the United States, analyses of past time-use patterns provide some insights. ERS researchers used data from the 2017-18 Leave and Flexibilities Job Module of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Survey to study the amount of time respondents spent in food preparation and eating at home, according to the location from which they worked the day covered by the interview. They found that over an average weekday in 2017-18, prime working-age adults who worked from home were more likely to prepare food (75 percent versus 63 percent) and to spend more time doing so (41 minutes compared with 30 minutes) than individuals who worked away from home. Individuals who worked from home spent 49 minutes eating at home, which was nearly double the amount reported by individuals who worked away from home (27 minutes). Teleworkers may consume a healthier diet if the greater time spent preparing food translates into eating more home-prepared meals and less eating out. Home-prepared meals tend to be lower in calories and higher in positive nutrients than meals prepared away from home, according to studies by ERS researchers. This chart appears in the ERS’ Amber Waves article, “Working From Home Leads to More Time Spent Preparing Food, Eating at Home,” February 2021.
Monday, February 22, 2021
People in the United States are slowly expanding the variety of vegetables on their plates, data from the USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) show. The vegetables food group is composed of five main subgroups: legumes, dark green, other vegetables, red and orange (including tomatoes), and starchy (including potatoes). Each offers an array of important vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. From 2000 to 2019, the combined share of dark green vegetables, red and orange vegetables (excluding tomatoes), and legumes available to eat in the United States increased from 16 percent to 22 percent. Increased availability of dark green vegetables over this period—led by a 47-percent jump in romaine and leaf lettuce—added additional variety for U.S. consumers. While the overall amount of vegetables available over the last two decades has decreased 4 percent, from 417.4 pounds per capita in 2000 to 400.1 pounds in 2019, there has been an increase in availability in recent years due in part to the expansion in varieties available for consumption. ERS’s Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System provides annual estimates of the per-capita availability for more than 200 food commodities consumed in the United States. This chart appears in the ERS Amber Waves article, “U.S. Supplies of Vegetables Available To Eat in 2019 Down Slightly From 2000, But Variety Has Grown,” February 2021.
Tuesday, February 2, 2021
In light of shifts in eating habits due to COVID-19, USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) researchers recently analyzed national survey data on foods eaten and where they were acquired. Data show that in the United States during 2013-16, almost half the chicken consumed was obtained at restaurants and other eating places away from home. ERS researchers looked at the most recent data available, from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys conducted during 2013-16. They estimated the consumption of 63 commodities by two food sources: food at home (foods obtained at grocery stores, supercenters, and other retailers) and food away from home (foods obtained at away-from-home eating places). Among meat, poultry, and fish during 2013-16, the food most eaten at restaurants and other eating places away from home was chicken (47 percent). This was followed by beef (39 percent) and fish (36 percent). Pork had the lowest away-from-home share (27 percent), behind turkey (30 percent). Results from the ERS analysis indicate that when people in the United States consume more of their food at home because of the pandemic, consumption of specific commodities may be affected differently because people tend to eat a different mix of foods at home. This chart is based on a chart in the ERS COVID-19 Working Paper, Shares of Commodity Consumption at Home, Restaurants, Fast Food Places, Schools, and Other Away from Home Places: 2013-16, released December 2020.
Wednesday, January 27, 2021
As COVID-19 disrupted life at home, work and school in 2020, U.S. consumers shifted where they obtained their food. For many people, grocery store foods replaced meals and snacks previously eaten in restaurants, college dining halls, sports venues, and other eating-out places. To better gauge the potential effect on commodity sectors due to changes in access to commercial eating places, Economic Research Service (ERS) researchers recently studied national survey data on foods eaten and where they were acquired. ERS researchers used recent 2013-16 data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to estimate the consumption of 63 commodities by two food sources: food at home (foods obtained at grocery stores, supercenters, and other retailers) and food away from home (foods obtained at away-from-home eating places). Their analysis shows that consumers obtained 38 percent of their meat, poultry and fish at restaurants and other eating places away from home during 2013-16. The fats and oils food group showed the same share. On the other end of the data, the share of nuts obtained at eating-out establishments was 11 percent, as most consumers bought that product from stores. For the same period, consumers obtained a larger share of vegetables (36 percent) away from home compared with fruits (16 percent). As people in the United States consume more of their food at home because of the pandemic, consumption of specific commodities may be affected differently. This chart appears in the ERS COVID-19 Working Paper, Shares of Commodity Consumption at Home, Restaurants, Fast Food Places, Schools, and Other Away from Home Places: 2013-16, released December 2020.
Tuesday, November 24, 2020
If sweet potatoes are on your Thanksgiving menu this year, you are not alone. According to the Economic Research Service’s (ERS) food availability data, supplies of sweet potatoes available for U.S. consumers to eat averaged 7.2 pounds per capita per year in 2017-19, up from an average 3.9 pounds in 1997-99. Availability is calculated by adding domestic production, initial inventories, and imports, then subtracting exports and end-of-year inventories. These national supplies are then divided by the U.S. population to estimate per capita availability. Consumer interest in nutrition and food companies expanding their sweet potato-based offerings, such as sweet potato fries, may be contributors to the rise in sweet potato availability. Sweet potatoes are high in vitamin A and vitamin C. A cup of boiled sweet potatoes without the skin (and without any added fats or marshmallow toppings) contains 249 calories and 287 percent of the daily recommended amount of vitamin A, 47 percent of vitamin C, and 29 percent of dietary fiber for a 2,000 calories-per-day diet. This chart uses data from ERS’s Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System.
Friday, September 4, 2020
In 2018, the total supply of fresh citrus fruits available for Americans to eat—after adjusting for spoilage, plate waste, and other losses in food stores, restaurants, and households—was 8.0 pounds per person. From 1970 to 2018, loss-adjusted per person availability of oranges and grapefruit fell by 51 and 84 percent, respectively, while availability of other citrus fruits grew—lemons, for example, doubled; limes increased by 22 times. Year-to-year changes in availability of citrus fruits reflect production swings due to weather events, citrus diseases, changes in import or export volumes, and other factors. Longer term trends, however, are usually driven by changes in consumer demand. For example, skipping breakfast—or making it a “grab and go” meal—is likely to reduce demand for fresh oranges and grapefruit. Grapefruit takes more effort to eat, especially when compared with easy-to-peel citrus fruits such as tangerines that are sweet in taste and smaller in size. The popularity of Hispanic, Asian, and other cuisines that use lemons and limes could be contributing to higher demand for these fruits. This chart appears in ERS’s Amber Waves article, “Citrus Fruits Accounted for 14 Percent of Fresh Fruits Available for Americans to Eat in 2018,” August 2020.
Wednesday, August 12, 2020
Knowing where natural resource use accumulates is fundamental to understanding what factors influence resource-use decisions. A recent Economic Research Service (ERS) study estimated natural resource use by the U.S. food system in 2007 (2007 data were the latest available with the level of detail needed for the analysis). Farm production was the smallest user of fossil fuels (12 percent of fossil fuel use); households were the largest users (35 percent). Over 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in food production were from farms and ranches, followed by households, and then companies that distribute and market food. For forest products, the greatest use occurred during food processing and packaging, with paper-based packaging accounting for most of this use. Farm production was the dominant user of freshwater withdrawals due to irrigation, but slightly over a third of water use by the food system in 2007 occurred after the farm, including in household kitchens (20 percent) and in the energy industry (12 percent). This chart appears in the ERS report, Resource Requirements of Food Demand in the United States, and Amber Waves article, “A Shift to Healthier Diets Likely To Affect Use of Natural Resources,” May 2020.
Wednesday, June 17, 2020
COVID-19-related stay-at-home orders have shifted the places where consumers obtain a large share of their meals and snacks. Foods bought in grocery stores have replaced meals and snacks previously eaten in restaurants, college dining halls, school cafeterias, sports venues, and other eating-out places. Results from a 2016 Economic Research Service (ERS) study indicate this shift in where Americans obtain their foods is likely to affect the marketing and consumption of specific vegetables differently, depending on what share of a vegetable’s total consumption is obtained in away-from-home eating places and whether that share has changed over the last decade. In 2007-08 (the latest food-intake survey used in the 2016 study), Americans obtained 36.6 percent of their vegetables away from home. Lettuce and potatoes had the highest away-from-home shares at 47.2 and 45.6 percent, respectively. Green peas and sweet corn had the lowest away-from-home shares of the vegetables examined—just 20 percent of these vegetables were obtained at away-from-home eating places in 2007-08. ERS researchers used national survey data on foods eaten and where they were acquired to disaggregate 63 commodities in ERS’s Loss-Adjusted Food Availability data system into two broad categories: food at home (foods obtained at grocery stores, supercenters, and other retailers) and food away from home (foods obtained at away-from-home eating places). ERS’s loss-adjusted food availability data take per capita supplies of food commodities in all forms—fresh, canned, frozen, and dried—available for human consumption. The data adjust for some of the spoilage, plate waste, and other losses in grocery stores, restaurants, and homes. The data in this chart appear in the 2016 ERS report, U.S. Food Commodity Availability by Food Source, 1994-2008.
Thursday, May 28, 2020
Conserving natural resources starts with identifying where they are used. A recent Economic Research Service (ERS) study examined how much of 5 of the Nation’s natural resources were used in 2007 to feed Americans aged 2 and above. (2007 data were the latest available with the level of detail needed for the analysis.) The researchers looked at the entire U.S. food system from production of farm inputs—such as fertilizers and feed—through points of consumer purchases in grocery stores and eating-out places to home kitchens. Their estimates show that agricultural land use in the U.S. food system was 25.5 percent of the country’s 2.3 billion acres of total land. Although the study does not account for other food-related land use, such as by forestry and mining industries serving the food system, it does show that about half of agricultural land is dedicated to food production for the U.S. market, and the other half was devoted to nonfood crops, like cotton and corn for producing ethanol, and to export crops, like soybeans. The U.S. food system also accounted for an estimated 28 percent of 2007’s freshwater withdrawals, 11.5 percent of the fossil fuel budget, and 7.2 percent of marketed forest products. Air is a natural resource that is degraded by the addition of greenhouses gases. The food system accounted for an estimated 18.1 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2007. A version of this chart appears in the ERS report, Resource Requirements of Food Demand in the United States, May 2020 and the Amber Waves feature article, “A Shift to Healthier Diets Likely To Affect Use of Natural Resources.”
Friday, March 6, 2020
According to Economic Research Service (ERS) food availability data, the per person supply of fluid cow’s milk available for Americans to drink decreased by 40 percent over 1977-2017, from 29.0 to 17.3 gallons per person. Whole milk availability drove this decline, falling from 18.7 gallons per person in 1977 to a low of 5.1 gallons in 2014, then up to 5.7 gallons in 2017. Availability of milk with 2 percent milk fat grew from 5.5 gallons per person in 1977 to a high of 9.2 gallons in 1989 before falling to 5.8 gallons in 2017. In 2005, 2 percent milk replaced whole milk as the most popular milk type. Availability of 1 percent milk has held steady at around 2.5 gallons per person for the last two decades, and skim milk reached its peak in 1997 at 3.9 gallons per person. Several factors—including competition from alternative beverages, an aging population, and changing consumer attitudes and preferences regarding milk fats—affect trends in U.S. per person milk availability. The data for this chart come from the ERS Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System.
Wednesday, February 12, 2020
In 2017, the per capita supply of red meat, poultry, and fish and shellfish available for Americans to eat, after adjusting for some of the spoilage, plate waste, and other losses in grocery stores, restaurants, and homes, rose to 143.9 pounds, continuing an upward trend that began in 2014 after an earlier decline. The 7.8-percent rise from 2014’s total was largely driven by increases in loss-adjusted availability of beef and chicken. Over 2015-17, beef had the largest percentage increase in per capita loss-adjusted availability—growing by 6 percent. Recovering consumer incomes after the 2007-09 recession and stable or declining retail prices have increased U.S. consumers’ demand for red meat in recent years. For chicken, the recent increase continues an upward trend that saw loss-adjusted availability of chicken more than doubling from 22.4 pounds per capita in 1970 to 52.3 pounds per capita in 2017. Efficiencies in chicken production have expanded supplies and kept prices in check. This chart appears in “U.S. Per Capita Availability of Red Meat, Poultry, and Seafood on the Rise” in ERS’s December 2019 Amber Waves.
Wednesday, January 29, 2020
ERS researchers used data for 2014-17 from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ annual American Time Use Survey (ATUS) to determine when Americans engage in food preparation and to look at gender differences. Over an average day in 2014-17, 54 percent of people age 15 and older engaged in food preparation with a noticeable gender disparity: 65 percent of women prepared food on an average day, compared to 41 percent of men. Counting only those Americans who prepared food on the day recorded in the survey, an average of 51 minutes per day were devoted to the activity, and women devoted more time than men (57 minutes versus 42 minutes). The peak times for food preparation were at 7 to 7:59 a.m. (14 percent), followed by a smaller peak at noon to 12:59 p.m. (12 percent) and a much larger peak at 5 to 5:59 p.m. (28 percent). More women than men engaged in food preparation from 7 a.m. to 6:59 p.m. A version of this chart appears in the ERS report, Food-Related Time Use: Changes and Demographic Differences, November 2019.
Friday, November 29, 2019
Flexible Consumer Behavior Survey (FCBS) module, developed by ERS, has been part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey since 2007. FCBS questions are designed to collect data on U.S. consumers’ dietary knowledge, attitudes, and habits, including their consumption of frozen meals and “ready-to-eat” foods such as salads, soups, chicken, sandwiches, and cooked vegetables from the salad bars and deli counters of grocery stores. Preparing food at home can be a time-intensive activity, and some American adults turn to prepared foods offered in grocery stores when faced with time constraints. ERS researchers used FCBS data to examine changes between 2007–08 and 2015–16 in the frequency of eating grocery-store-prepared dishes and frozen meals and pizzas. Although the average number of times Americans age 20 and older reported consuming frozen meals or pizzas in the past month was similar in both time periods, average past-month consumption of ready-to-eat foods increased by about 26 percent, from 1.9 times in 2007–08 to 2.4 times in 2015–16. Many grocery stores have expanded their ready-to-eat options in recent years. More information from the Flexible Consumer Behavior Survey can be found in the Food Consumption & Demand topic page on the ERS website. This Chart of Note was originally published April 26, 2019.
Tuesday, November 26, 2019
If mashed potatoes are on your Thanksgiving menu, you are not alone. Potatoes rank number one among vegetables in terms of consumption. In 2017, 49.2 pounds of fresh and processed potatoes per person were available for Americans to eat after adjusting for losses, according to ERS’s loss-adjusted food availability data. The loss-adjusted food availability data series takes per capita supplies of food available for human consumption and more closely approximates actual consumption by adjusting for some of the spoilage, plate waste, and other losses in restaurants and grocery stores, as well as at home. Loss-adjusted availability of fresh potatoes was 22.9 pounds per person in 2017, followed by frozen potatoes at 20.5 pounds per person. Loss-adjusted availability of canned and dehydrated potatoes, along with potato chips and shoestrings, totaled 5.9 pounds per person in 2017. While loss-adjusted canned tomato availability, at 16.1 pounds, leads fresh tomatoes, total tomato loss-adjusted availability—fresh and canned—came in second (28.7 pounds per person). Loss-adjusted availability of fresh and dehydrated onions was 11.3 pounds per person in 2017. Head lettuce came in fourth at 8.3 pounds per person while romaine and leaf lettuce surpassed carrots and sweet corn, reaching 6.8 pounds per person. Consumption of carrots and sweet corn finished the list of America’s top 7 vegetable choices. This chart appears in the Food Availability and Consumption section of ERS’s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials data product, updated September 2019.
Friday, October 4, 2019
In 2017, 113.8 pounds of fresh and processed fruit per person were available for U.S. consumption after adjusting for losses, according to ERS’s loss-adjusted food availability data. This data series takes per capita supplies of food available for human consumption and more closely approximates actual consumption by adjusting for some of the spoilage, plate waste, and other losses in eating places, grocery stores, and the home. Loss-adjusted apple juice availability at 13.8 pounds (1.6 gallons) per person in 2017, combined with fresh apples (almost 10 pounds per person), and canned, dried, and frozen apples (3.4 pounds per person), puts apples in the top spot for total fruit consumption. While orange consumption came in second, loss-adjusted orange juice availability has steadily declined, reaching a low of 18.2 pounds (2.1 gallons) per person in 2017. Loss-adjusted availability of fresh bananas was 14.1 pounds per person in 2017, which is 4 pounds per person more than fresh apples. Loss-adjusted availability of grapes reached 7.6 pounds per person, and strawberries, pineapple, and watermelon rounded out the list of America’s top fruit choices. This chart appears in ERS’s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials data product, updated September 2019.
Thursday, August 29, 2019
Low in calories and saturated fat, and rich in omega-3 fatty acids, seafood is a nutrient-dense source of dietary protein. In 2016, 15 pounds per person of seafood products were available for consumption in the United States, an increase from 11.7 pounds per person in 1970. In 2016, the category with the greatest availability was fresh and frozen fish at 6 pounds per person, followed by fresh and frozen shellfish at 5.3 pounds per person, which more than doubled since 1970. These two seafood categories together accounted for 76 percent of fishery product availability in 2016. Fresh and frozen shellfish availability has steadily increased over the past four and a half decades, surpassing canned tuna in 1991. The third highest seafood product, canned tuna, fell to 2.1 pounds per person in 2016 after reaching almost 4 pounds per person in 1989. Availability of the remaining canned and cured seafood products was 1.6 pounds per person in recent years down from a high of 2.5 pounds per person in 1972. The data for this chart come from the Food Availability data series in ERS’s Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System. This Chart of Note was originally published May 10, 2019.
Friday, June 21, 2019
In 2017, 13.2 pounds per person of fresh head lettuce (iceberg, butter, Boston, and Bibb lettuces) were available for domestic consumption, according to ERS’s Food Availability data. Fresh head lettuce has declined 54 percent from its high of 28.6 pounds per person in 1989. In contrast, availability of romaine and leaf lettuces (such as red and green leaf lettuces) increased, reaching 12.5 pounds per person in 2017 from 3.3 pounds per person in 1985 and almost equaling head lettuce. The growing popularity of prepackaged, ready-to-eat salad greens contributed to the rise in availability of romaine and leaf lettuces. ERS annually calculates national supplies available for domestic consumption by summing domestic production, beginning inventories, and imports and then subtracting exports and ending inventories. Per capita estimates are calculated by dividing these national supplies by the U.S. population. The data for this chart come from the Food Availability data series in ERS’s Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System.