ERS Charts of Note
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.
Wednesday, June 12, 2019
Newly established links between retail food sales data and USDA nutrition databases now allow researchers to study the healthfulness of Americans’ purchases at retail stores. ERS researchers scored the healthfulness of retail food sales using the Healthy Eating Index (HEI-2015), a measure that summarizes how well a set of foods conforms to the recommendations in the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, developed jointly by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture. In the Healthy Eating Index, the maximum possible score is 100, indicating conformance to Federal recommendations for 13 dietary components encompassing food groups (fruit, dairy, whole grains) and dietary elements (added sugars, fatty acids, sodium). For the nine adequacy components that make up a healthy diet, a high score indicates Americans are purchasing a sufficient amount of foods in these groups. A high score among the four components that nutritionists advise to consume in moderation indicates Americans are keeping purchases of foods containing these components in check. In total, retail food sales in 2013 scored 55, suggesting purchases are not well aligned with Federal dietary recommendations. Scores for whole grains, greens and beans, dairy, sodium, and added sugars were each below 50 percent of their maximum possible scores. This chart appears in the article “New Data Linkages Provide Healthfulness Measures for American Grocery Store Sales” from the June 2019 edition of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
Friday, May 31, 2019
Over the past five decades, Americans’ annual consumption of tree nuts has grown from 1.38 pounds per person in 1970 to 3.69 pounds in 2016, according to ERS’s Loss-Adjusted Food Availability data series (a proxy for consumption). Almond consumption experienced the largest growth, increasing by 1.35 pounds per person from 1970 to 2016. Consumption of pecans and walnuts averaged a little over one-third of a pound per person, remaining relatively stable throughout the years. Pistachios have steadily increased in popularity since 1970, reaching 0.33 pound per person in 2016. Consumption of other nuts (cashews, Brazil nuts, chestnuts, pine nuts, and many nut mixes) doubled, reaching almost a pound per person in 2016. Cashews make up the largest share of this grouping. Promotional programs that tout the nutritional value of nuts, including their beneficial levels of vitamin E and omega fatty acids, and increased awareness and demand for nut milks have likely contributed to the growth in per capita nut consumption. The data for this chart come from the Loss-Adjusted Food Availability data series in ERS’s Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System.
Wednesday, May 15, 2019
ERS developed the Flexible Consumer Behavior Survey (FCBS) module of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to collect data on the dietary knowledge, attitudes, and habits of U.S. consumers. The ease and expense of travelling to grocery stores could affect the variety of perishable foods eaten at home or the choice to prepare a meal at home or dine out. According to 2015-16 FCBS module data, 88.3 percent of households usually drove their own cars to the stores where they did most of their grocery shopping. However, this figure masked differences by family income: While 93.4 percent of households with incomes above 185 percent of Federal poverty guidelines usually drove their own cars to do most of their grocery shopping, the percentage of households below 130 percent of poverty guidelines that usually used this mode of transportation was 78.4 percent. The survey found that 6.7 percent of households usually relied on someone else’s car when traveling to the store where they primarily shopped for groceries; only 3.8 percent usually walked, rode a bicycle, or used public transit. The remaining households (1.2 percent) had another or no usual mode of travel. More information from the FCBS can be found in the Food Consumption & Demand topic page on the ERS website.
Friday, May 10, 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.
Wednesday, May 1, 2019
Naturally gluten-free, high in fiber, and a good source of protein, Americans’ consumption of legumes (beans, peas, lentils, and chickpeas) has trended upward in recent years, according to ERS’s Loss-Adjusted Food Availability data series (a proxy for consumption). U.S. consumption of legumes reached 11.7 pounds per person in 2017, up from 8.0 pounds per person in 2014. Rising demand by U.S. consumers for Tex-Mex dishes and food products like hummus drove the increase. From 1970–2017, the largest growth occurred in the consumption of black beans, increasing to 1 pound per capita, and peas and lentils, increasing to 4.7 pounds per capita—the highest consumption among all categories. Pinto beans experienced an uptick in 2017, climbing to 2.9 pounds per person. Despite falling slightly in 2017, consumption of other legumes (chickpeas, black eyed peas, small white, small red, pink, and other beans) has steadily risen, and has grown 63 percent over the past 47 years. However, not all legumes have grown in popularity. Lima bean consumption fell to 0.2 pound per person in 2017—a 74-percent decrease from 1970. Consumption of navy, great northern, and red kidney beans fell 58 percent during this time period as well. The data for this chart come from the Loss-Adjusted Food Availability data series in ERS’s Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System.
Friday, April 26, 2019
The 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 FCBS can be found in the Food Consumption & Demand topic page on the ERS website.
Tuesday, April 23, 2019
Not all the food that grocers receive ends up in consumers’ shopping carts. Food loss occurs when retailers remove misshaped produce items, overstocked holiday foods, and spoiled foods from their shelves. Rates of supermarket loss for 24 fresh fruits were estimated by comparing pounds of shipments received with pounds purchased by consumers for 2,900 U.S. supermarkets in 2011–12. Loss rates ranged from 4.1 percent for bananas to 43.1 percent for papayas. Greater perishability, as well as overstocking to manage uncertain or uneven demand, may contribute to higher loss rates. ERS researchers applied the 2011–12 loss rates to 2016 quantities of fresh fruits available for sale in retail stores to estimate retail level food loss. Pineapples and apricots had the second- and third-highest loss rates for fresh fruits, respectively. Pineapples also ranked relatively high in terms of the amount—or volume—of retail loss in 2016 (719 million pounds) due to the 2.2 billion pounds of fresh pineapples available for sale in retail stores that year. Loss volumes were highest for fresh watermelon and apples, reflecting the large quantities available for sale by retailers. In 2016, supermarket loss for the 24 fresh fruits totaled 6.7 billion pounds, or 4.7 billion pounds after removing the weight of nonedible pits and peels. Losses for fresh produce and other foods also occur in homes and eating places, such as when food spoils or is served but not eaten (plate waste). The statistics in this chart are from the 2016 ERS report, Updated Supermarket Shrink Estimates for Fresh Foods and Their Implications for ERS Loss-Adjusted Food Availability Data and the Loss-Adjusted Food Availability data series in the ERS Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System.
Wednesday, April 10, 2019
Retail-level food loss occurs when grocery retailers remove dented cans, misshapen produce items, overstocked holiday foods, and spoiled foods from their shelves. Estimates of the rates of foodstore loss for fresh produce were developed by comparing data on pounds of shipments received with pounds purchased by consumers for 2,900 U.S. supermarkets in 2011–12. The average supermarket loss rate was 11.6 percent for 31 fresh vegetables. The highest loss rate among the vegetables was for turnip greens, followed by mustard greens, and escarole/endive. ERS researchers applied these loss rates to 2016 quantities of fresh vegetables available for sale in retail stores to estimate retail level food loss. Potatoes, tomatoes, and romaine and leaf lettuce topped the list of fresh vegetables in terms of food loss volumes. Their loss rates are lower than turnip and mustard greens, but their sales volumes are higher. In 2016, potatoes, tomatoes, and romaine and leaf lettuce accounted for 35 percent of food store fresh vegetable sales. Supermarket loss for the 31 fresh vegetables totaled 6.2 billion pounds per year in 2016, or 5 billion pounds per year after removing the weight of nonedible peels, stalks, etc. Losses for fresh produce and other foods also occur in homes and eating places when food spoils or is served but not eaten (plate waste). The statistics in this chart are from the 2016 ERS report, Updated Supermarket Shrink Estimates for Fresh Foods and Their Implications for ERS Loss-Adjusted Food Availability Data, and the Loss-Adjusted Food Availability data series in ERS’s Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System.
Friday, March 22, 2019
As part of the Federal Government’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), respondents are asked whether they see nutrition or health information on fast-food and full-service restaurant menus. If the answer is “yes,” respondents are also asked whether they use that information to decide which foods to buy. ERS researchers compared daily calorie intakes of adults who saw and used the menu information with intakes of adults who noticed the information but chose not to use it. Because information users may differ from nonusers in other ways, ERS researchers also adjusted intakes for differences in socio-demographic characteristics and interview-related factors (e.g., whether intake occurred on a weekday or weekend). Even after accounting for such differences, ERS analysis of NHANES data from 2007–14 reveals that restaurant menu label users consumed 167–180 fewer calories per day than nonusers consumed—a calorie intake gap that is 8 to 9 percent of a 2,000-calorie reference diet. This chart appears in “New National Menu Labeling Provides Information Consumers Can Use To Help Manage Their Calorie Intake” in the October 2018 issue of the ERS Amber Waves magazine.
Tuesday, March 5, 2019
ERS developed the Flexible Consumer Behavior Survey (FCBS) module, which, starting in 2007, has been part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. FCBS collects data on U.S. consumers’ dietary knowledge, attitudes, and habits, including their awareness and use of USDA’s educational MyPlate graphic. ERS researchers used FCBS data to estimate the share of Americans who were aware of MyPlate and used it as a guide to support healthy eating patterns. In 2015–16, 26 percent of Americans age 16 and older reported that they had heard of MyPlate. This is a 6-percentage point increase from 2013–14, when 20 percent reported being aware of MyPlate. Among those who had heard of MyPlate in 2015–16, more than one-third of them (35 percent) indicated that they had tried to follow its recommendations—the same share as in 2013–14. Used in nutrition education and displayed on some food packaging, MyPlate depicts a place setting (with a plate and glass) divided into five basic food groups whose sizes correspond to suggested daily intake proportions. MyPlate replaced MyPyramid in June 2011. More information from FCBS can be found in the Food Consumption & Demand topic page on the ERS website, updated February 14, 2019.
Tuesday, December 11, 2018
A recent ERS analysis found that over the last 35 years, the percent of calories coming from fat in at-home foods consumed by Americans declined more than the fat content of away-from-home foods. (At-home foods are foods purchased from supermarkets and other retailers; away-from-home foods are obtained from restaurants, schools, vending machines, sports venues, and other away-from-home sources.) The fat content of at-home foods fell from 41.0 percent of calories in 1977-78 to 32.1 percent in 2011-14. Over the same period, the fat content of away-from-home foods dropped less sharply from 41.2 to 37.4 percent. Changes in fat content can occur because of different choices being made by consumers, changes in product formulations, or both. Changes in fat content varied among the away-from-home sources. The fat content of fast food changed little, while the fat content of foods from restaurants with wait staff declined from 46.1 to 37.1 percent. The fat content of school meals fell to a level similar to that of food at home. School food consists primarily of meals served as a part of USDA’s National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program, which are required to meet Federal nutrition standards. This chart appears in “Both At Home and Away, Americans Are Choosing More Lower Fat Foods Than They Did 35 Years Ago” in ERS’s Amber Waves magazine, October 2018.
Tuesday, August 21, 2018
“Add More Vegetables to Your Day” and “Vary Your Veggies” are among USDA’s key messages about how Americans can achieve healthier diets. However, many Americans still consume an insufficient quantity and variety of vegetables. One reason may be a lingering perception that vegetables are expensive. To address this perception, ERS recently estimated average retail prices paid in 2016 for 92 fresh and processed vegetables (including legumes), measured in cup equivalents. A cup equivalent is the edible portion that will generally fit in a 1-cup measuring cup; 2 cups for lettuce and other raw leafy greens. ERS researchers found that iceberg lettuce, fresh whole carrots, canned green beans, and 13 other products cost less than 40 cents per cup equivalent, while 55 vegetables, including baby carrots, frozen mixed vegetables, and canned tomatoes, cost between 40 and 79 cents per cup equivalent. Fresh asparagus, at $2.47 per cup equivalent, is the priciest of these 92 vegetables, and dried pinto beans at $0.17 are the least expensive. The data in this chart are from ERS's Fruit and Vegetable Prices data product, updated July 11, 2018.
Wednesday, August 1, 2018
Celebrating National Watermelon Day this Friday with a big slice of watermelon will be good for your health and for your food budget. ERS recently calculated average prices paid by consumers in 2016 for 62 fresh and processed fruits measured in cup equivalents. A cup equivalent is the edible portion that will generally fit in a 1-cup measuring cup; 1/2 cup for raisins and other dried fruits. Fresh watermelon at 20 cents per cup equivalent and apple juice (made from concentrate) at 26 cents per cup equivalent were the lowest priced fruits, while fresh blackberries, fresh raspberries, and canned cherries were the priciest. Twenty-nine fruits cost less than 80 cents per cup equivalent. Mechanical versus manual harvesting, distance the fruit travels to the store, perishability, and multiple other factors all play a role in fruit costs per cup equivalent. The data in this chart are from ERS's Fruit and Vegetable Prices data product, updated July 11, 2018.
Tuesday, June 5, 2018
According to ERS’s loss-adjusted food availability data, Americans consumed an average of 156.3 pounds of fresh and processed vegetables per person in 2015. The loss-adjusted food availability data series takes per capita supplies of food available for human consumption and adjusts for some of the spoilage, plate waste, and other losses in restaurants, grocery stores, and the home to more closely approximate consumption. Potatoes claimed the #1 spot at 48.3 pounds per person, including both fresh potatoes and processed products (frozen, canned, and dehydrated potatoes and potato chips and shoestrings). Canned tomatoes are the leading canned vegetable, and total tomato consumption—fresh and canned—came in second at 28.3 pounds per person. Americans consumed 7.7 pounds of fresh and dehydrated onions per person in 2015, almost a pound more than head lettuce consumption. Consumption of carrots, sweet corn, and romaine and leaf lettuce finished the list of America’s top seven vegetable choices. This chart appears in ERS’s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials data product.
Monday, April 30, 2018
Difficulty accessing large grocery stores may increase a household’s reliance on smaller stores and restaurants, possibly resulting in a diet of low-nutritional quality and related health problems. ERS researchers used data captured in USDA’s National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS) to examine if differences in how far low-income households live from large grocery stores and whether they own a car influences their food spending behaviors. Among low-income households, the researchers found that access-burdened and sufficient-access households spent similar shares of their weekly food spending at grocery stores (57-58 percent) and at small grocery, ethnic, and specialty food stores (3-5 percent). Differences between the two low-income access groups did arise in spending at convenience, dollar, drug, and other small stores and at eating places. Access-burdened households spent a higher share of their food expenditures at convenience, dollar, drug, and other small stores than sufficient-access households and a smaller share of their food budgets at eating places. In 2012, 26.4 percent of U.S. households were low-income sufficient-access households and 4.7 percent were low-income access-burdened. This chart is from "Distance to Grocery Stores and Vehicle Access Influence Food Spending by Low-Income Households at Convenience Stores," in the March 2018 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
Wednesday, March 21, 2018
The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans identifies fiber as a key nutrient that is under-consumed by many people. However, increasing fiber consumption requires that consumers be able to identify high-fiber foods, highlighting the importance of labeling and marketing. Recent ERS analysis found that the average fiber content in yogurt products increased by 20.2 percent between 2008 and 2012. New yogurt products with added fiber to promote the growth of probiotics and with toppings, such as granola, crushed cookies, and nuts, contributed to the increase. New yogurt products with either a probiotic health claim on the package or yogurt toppings contained twice as much fiber on average than new products without the health claim or toppings. Average fiber content among breakfast cereal products rose by 6.9 percent between 2008 and 2012. Consumers’ preferences for breakfast cereals made with fiber-rich whole grains have driven the increase in fiber levels. New cereal products carrying a whole grain claim contained almost 47 percent more fiber compared to new products without the claim. This chart appears in "Yogurt Products and Breakfast Cereals Increasing Their Fiber Contents" in the February 2018 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
Wednesday, February 28, 2018
Americans acquire food from many sources—supermarkets, convenience stores, fast food outlets, and more. But in practice, large grocery stores dominate. A recent ERS analysis of household-level data from USDA’s National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS) found that three-quarters of U.S. households’ calories came from retail stores, with supermarkets, supercenters, and other large grocers providing 65 percent of calories by themselves. Small and specialty food stores like bakeries and farmers’ markets supplied 3 percent of calories and 6.5 percent came from convenience stores, dollar stores, and other stores. Restaurants and other eating places provided 17 percent of household calories. ERS researchers used the detailed FoodAPS data to calculate the nutrient value of food acquisitions and found that the overall nutritional quality of foods purchased at large grocery stores was higher than that of foods purchased at other retail outlets or restaurant and fast-food establishments. A version of this chart appears in the ERS report, Nutritional Quality of Foods Acquired by Americans: Findings from USDA’s National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey, released on February 21, 2018.
Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Data from the newly released Eating and Health Module of the American Time Use Survey reveal findings about time spent eating and body weight that are that consistent with patterns from studies in other countries. On an average day in 2016, healthy weight adults age 20 and older spent more time eating than did overweight and obese adults. Compared with overweight adults, healthy weight adults spent 10 percent more time eating (88 minutes versus 80 minutes per day). Differences in the time spent eating between healthy weight and obese adults were larger. Healthy weight adults spent 11.4 percent more time eating than adults with low-risk obesity and 20.5 percent more time eating than adults with higher risk obesity on an average day. Total time spent eating includes both time spent eating and drinking as a primary, or main, activity (primary eating) and time spent eating while doing something else, such as watching television or driving (secondary eating). The differences in total time spent eating by body weight category were driven by differences in primary, not secondary eating. Time use information can be found in ERS’s Eating and Health Module (ATUS) data product, updated December 2017.