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Limes, lemons, and tangerines drove the 2007-18 growth in fresh citrus availability in the United States

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.

Households are the largest users of fossil fuels in the U.S. food system

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.

Americans obtained just over one-third of their vegetables in away-from-home eating places in 2007-08

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.

U.S. food system accounted for between 7 to 28 percent of the Nation’s 2007 use of five natural resources

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.”

Less fluid milk in the U.S. marketplace, but more of it was low-fat in 2017 than 40 years earlier

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.

U.S. per capita consumption of total meat was up in 2017

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.

Throughout most of the day, more women prepared food than did men in 2014-2017

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.

ICYMI... American adults consumed ready-to-eat foods more often in 2015–16 than in 2007–08

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.

Potatoes and tomatoes are America’s top vegetable choices

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.

America’s top fruit choices? Apples and oranges

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.

ICYMI... U.S. shellfish availability more than doubled from 1970 to 2016

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.

Romaine and leaf lettuces almost as popular as head lettuce

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.

Almonds lead increase in tree nut consumption

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.

U.S. shellfish availability more than doubled from 1970 to 2016

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.

Americans consumed almost 12 pounds of legumes per person in 2017

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.

American adults consumed ready-to-eat foods more often in 2015–16 than in 2007–08

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.

Food-loss quantities and rates for retailers differ among fresh fruits

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.

Amounts and rates of retail food loss vary by type of fresh vegetable

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.

In choosing where to buy groceries, more men than women prioritize location

Friday, February 8, 2019

On an average day in 2014-16, 69 percent of Americans age 18 and older who were the main grocery shoppers in their households reported that the majority of groceries were obtained from a grocery store, as opposed to a supercenter, warehouse club store, or other store type. According to data from the Eating & Health Module of the American Time Use Survey, these individuals most often cited location as the primary reason they shopped at a grocery store, followed by price and quality of products. Men and women had the same ranking of preferences, but the size of the shares varied by gender. The share of men who preferred to shop in a grocery store because of its location was 47.5 percent—nearly 6 percentage points higher than the corresponding share of women (41.9 percent). A higher share of women than men reported that they preferred to shop in a grocery store because of price, quality, or variety of products offered. Neither gender commonly cited customer service as a determining factor, but a slightly higher share of men than women chose a grocery store because of its customer service. This chart appears in the ERS report, Adult Eating and Health Patterns: Evidence From the 2014-16 Eating & Health Module of the American Time Use Survey, October 2018.

Cranberries are America’s second favorite berry

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Cranberries may make a traditional appearance on many tables this Thanksgiving, but strawberries are still America’s favorite berry. According to ERS’s food availability data, 16.8 pounds of berries per person were available for consumption in 2016, up from 6.5 pounds per person in 1990. Improvements in product quality, year-round availability, and convenient packaging, along with increased awareness of the health benefits of eating berries, have contributed to the rise in consumer demand. In 2016, a total of 9.8 pounds of strawberries per person were available for consumption—more than for any other berry. Fresh strawberry availability has steadily increased over the past two decades, climbing from 3.2 pounds per person in 1990 to 8 pounds per person in 2016. Cranberries came in second in 2016 at 3 pounds available per person, representing a 129-percent increase since 1990 that was driven by growth in cranberry juice availability. Blueberries came in third at 2.4 pounds per person in 2016, up from 0.4 pounds in 1990. Most of that increase was in fresh blueberry availability. The data for this chart are from ERS’s Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System, updated October 29, 2018.

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