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Population and income drive world food production projections

Monday, December 11, 2023

As the world’s population increases, the global agriculture system will be expected to provide more food. To better understand how the world agriculture system may grow in response by 2050, researchers at USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) created a range of scenarios based on population growth. Under medium population growth, production around the world would have to increase to 14,060 trillion crop calories to feed 9.75 billion people in 2050. This is a 47-percent increase in crop calories from a 2011 baseline. Crop calories, the total calories available from crops, are a measure of the size of global agriculture since crops can be either consumed directly as food or fed to animals to be consumed as meat, dairy products, and eggs. In a high population growth scenario, 15,410 trillion crop calories would be needed to feed 10.8 billion people, a 61-percent increase in calories from the 2011 baseline. With both the medium and high population growth scenarios, researchers assumed that as per capita incomes rise, people would increase their overall consumption of calories as well as consume a higher proportion of animal products, such as meat and dairy. ERS researchers compared these scenarios to a static diet scenario, in which per capita food consumption remained constant over time, providing a point of comparison to quantify the effect of income growth on food consumption. An expanded version of this chart appears in the ERS report Scenarios of Global Food Consumption: Implications for Agriculture, published in September 2023.

The most popular eating times in the United States are 12 noon and 6 p.m.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Throughout an average day in 2022, individuals aged 15 and older exhibit two distinct peak time blocks for primary eating and drinking—between 12 noon and 12:59 p.m. and from 6 to 6:59 p.m. About 3 in 10 individuals engaged in primary eating and drinking during each of these periods. While some people prefer to eat and drink while not doing anything else (primary eating and drinking), others opt for grazing while multitasking (secondary eating). Notably, between 9 a.m. and 9:59 p.m., at least 5 percent of U.S. residents participated in secondary eating each hour in 2022. The top five concurrent activities during secondary eating included watching television and movies, paid work, socializing with others, playing games, and food and drink preparation. Examining the eating patterns of the U.S. population is key to better understanding the determinants of dietary intake and diet-related health status. This data and chart come from the USDA, Economic Research Service’s Eating and Health Module (ATUS) data product, which is part of the nationally representative American Time Use Survey.

Feeding the world: Global food production per person has grown over time

Monday, November 13, 2023

From 1990 through 2019, the calories available to consume per person increased 13 percent on average. The largest changes among the United States, Brazil, China, and India from 1990 to 2019 were in Brazil and China, with daily per capita food available for consumption increasing by 530 calories per person in Brazil and 840 calories in China (20 and 34 percent respectively). China was below the world average food consumption per person in 1990 but above the world average in 2019. The amount of different food types consumed in an individual country depends on income and culture, especially for animal products. Per capita consumption of animal products grew rapidly in Brazil and China but was still below the U.S. level in 2019. Per capita calorie consumption in India was lower than the world average in both 1990 and 2019. This chart appears in the USDA, Economic Research Service report Scenarios of Global Food Consumption: Implications for Agriculture published in September 2023.

People 15 and older in the United States spent an average of 85 minutes per day eating and drinking in 2022

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

On an average day in 2022, individuals 15 and older spent 68.5 minutes engaged in eating and drinking as a “primary,” or main, activity. USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) sponsors and maintains data on time spent eating and drinking for the Eating and Health Module, a supplement to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Survey (ATUS). Information about the time and location U.S. residents spend eating and drinking can offer valuable insights into how nutrition and health outcomes vary over time and can inform the design of food assistance and nutrition policies and programs. ERS researchers found that respondents devoted an extra 16.4 minutes to eating as a secondary activity, which means eating while doing something else, such as watching television, working, socializing, playing games, or preparing meals. In 2022, the top two places for primary eating and drinking and secondary eating were “own home or yard” and “workplace.” Overall, individuals in the United States aged 15 and older allocated 85 minutes to both primary eating and drinking and secondary eating on an average day in 2022. This is a modest increase of about 4 minutes compared with the survey data from 2016. This data and chart come from the ERS Eating and Health Module (ATUS) data product, which is part of the nationally representative ATUS.

More than half of apples available for U.S. consumption are used in juices

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Apples are a fall staple, showing up in lunch boxes, pies, cobblers, crisps, and cider. In 2021, 45.9 pounds of apples per person were available for domestic consumption, according to USDA, Economic Research Service’s (ERS) Food Availability data product. Fifty-two percent of the available apples for U.S. domestic use (23.7 pounds per person) was in the form of juice or cider, or about 2 gallons per person. Fresh apples accounted for 34 percent (15.8 pounds per person). Canned, frozen, dried, and other forms made up the remaining 14 percent of apple availability in 2021. Over the last 10 years, per-person apple availability reached a high of 49.2 pounds per person in 2016. Much of the decrease since 2016 was because of declining availability of fresh apples. In 2016, fresh apple availability was 19.3 pounds per person. This chart uses data from ERS’ Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System (FADS), updated in April 2023.

Fewer than one-third of U.S. adults think their diets were very good or excellent

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

In the period covering January 2017 to March 2020, just under 3 in 10 adults, or 29 percent, reported the healthfulness of their diets was “very good” or “excellent.” That is 3.5 percentage points lower than the corresponding share reported in 2005–06. These data can be found in the latest publicly available wave of the Flexible Consumer Behavior Survey (FCBS), which collects information on U.S. consumers’ knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs about nutrition and food choices. For context, 41 percent of adults surveyed in the 1989–1991 Continuing Survey of Food Intakes of Individuals rated the healthfulness of their diets as “very good” or excellent, suggesting a continuing downward trend in the health quality individuals ascribe to their diets. In the 2017–March 2020 survey, adults age 20 and over were asked to assess their diet quality by responding to the question: “In general, how healthy is your overall diet?” They could choose “poor,” “fair,” “good,” “very good,” or “excellent.” Since 2007, USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) has sponsored the FCBS by providing partial funding for data collection and survey administration. FCBS is a module of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and its data reflect national trends about changing dietary behaviors of U.S. consumers. This chart appears on ERS’ Flexible Consumer Behavior Survey topic page, updated in June 2023.

U.S. obesity rates grew in most regions during first year of pandemic

Monday, August 28, 2023

Adult obesity rates varied widely among Census regions of the United States before the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. During the pandemic, regional obesity rates grew further apart. From 2019 to March 2020, adult obesity rates ranged from a low of 36.7 percent in the West to the highest rate at 43.1 percent in the South, a 6.4-percentage point difference. The regional differences expanded to 7.2 percentage points during the first year of the pandemic, from a low of 37.4 percent in the Northeast to a high of 44.6 percent in the Midwest. The only region that experienced a decline in obesity rates during the first year of the pandemic was the Northeast. The West had the lowest adult obesity rate before the pandemic but experienced the largest increase of any region during the first year of the pandemic, a 2.8-percentage point increase. The obesity rate increase in the West was nearly twice the increase in the South, which had the highest regional obesity rate before the pandemic. The Midwest had the second-highest rate before the pandemic but increased nearly twice as much as the South, emerging as the region with the highest obesity rate during the first year of the pandemic, ending in March 2021. This chart appears in the USDA, Economic Research Service COVID-19 Working Paper: Obesity Prevalence Among U.S. Adult Subpopulations During the First Year of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Obesity rates among U.S. adults increased during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

In early 2020, shortly after the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic was declared in the United States, obesity was identified as a risk factor for medical complications and death from the virus. Broad efforts to contain COVID-19 included travel, work, and social restrictions. Such behavioral adjustments disrupted the dietary and activity patterns of U.S. adults. Data from Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) indicate the percentage of adults with obesity was 40.7 percent in early 2020. One year later, this rate grew by 1.8 percentage points to 42.5 percent. There was not an immediate, substantial increase when the pandemic began. Rather, the obesity rate was statistically indistinguishable from the prepandemic prevalence during the first 3 months of the pandemic (March–May 2020) at 40.8 percent. The next three time periods saw statistically significant increases relative to the baseline prepandemic period. Obesity prevalence increased 1.5 percentage points to 42.2 percent in the June–August 2020 period compared with the prepandemic prevalence. Obesity prevalence slightly increased again to 42.5 percent in September–November 2020 and remained at this level through March 2021. The total obesity rate increase from March 2020 to March 2021 was more than triple the average yearly growth rate of 0.5 percentage points in the preceding decade, 2011–2019. This chart appears in the USDA, Economic Research Service COVID-19 Working Paper: Obesity Prevalence Among U.S. Adult Subpopulations During the First Year of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Nearly 80 percent of U.S. adults used Nutrition Facts panel on food labels in buying decisions

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Nearly 4 out of 5 adults aged 20 and older reported they regularly used the Nutrition Facts panel when deciding to buy a food product during the most recent wave of the Flexible Consumer Behavior Survey (FCBS), from 2017 to March 2020. That is 79 percent, which is much higher than the 62 percent of adults who reported regular use of the Nutrition Facts panel in 2005–06. Regular use includes using the panel “sometimes,” “most of the time,” or “always” in food purchasing decisions. The Nutrition Facts panel on packaged foods lists the amount of calories, fat, fiber, carbohydrates, and some other nutritional information—all of which helps consumers compare products and make healthier food choices. Standardized nutrition information became accessible to U.S. consumers on almost all packaged foods sold in grocery stores, supermarkets, superstores, and other retail stores following the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990. Since 2007, USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) has sponsored the FCBS by providing partial funding for data collection and survey administration. FCBS is a module of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which collects information on U.S. consumers’ knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs about nutrition and food choices. This chart appears on ERS’ Flexible Consumer Behavior Survey topic page, updated in June 2023.

Food-at-home spending on desserts, prepared meals, and other unclassified items varied by race and ethnicity from 2016-19 to 2020

Monday, July 10, 2023

U.S. households shifted away from buying foods at restaurants and other food service venues to food-at-home (FAH) outlets such as grocery stores and other retail establishments in 2020. The largest FAH shifts came from a category designated by USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) as “all other FAH,” which includes prepared meals and salads, desserts, and foods not elsewhere classified such as soups, savory snacks, candy, sweeteners, margarine, and butter. “All other FAH” was by far the largest FAH category before 2020, and its share of the household food budget increased by 2.6 percentage points in 2020 compared with the period from 2016 to 2019. However, this increase was unevenly distributed across racial and ethnic populations and among subcategories within “all other FAH.” All U.S. racial and ethnic subpopulations except Hispanic households increased their total food budget share for “all other FAH” during this period. Black households increased their budget shares for “all other FAH” the most, followed by Asian households. The increase by Asian households on “all other FAH” was driven by a 1.6-percentage-point rise in prepared meals and salads and a 1.8-percentage-point increase in other, not elsewhere classified foods, such as snacks. In contrast, Black households had a larger increase in other, not elsewhere classified foods (2.0 percentage points) and desserts (1.4 percentage points). This chart appears in the ERS Amber Waves article, New Analysis Approach Illuminates Differences in Food Spending Across U.S. Populations, published in May 2023.

Grapefruit and oranges drove decline in U.S. fresh citrus availability from 1970 to 2022

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

In 2022, the total supply of fresh citrus fruits available for consumption in the United States was nearly 8.4 pounds per person after adjusting for spoilage, plate waste, and other losses. From 1970 to 2022, loss-adjusted per person availability of oranges and grapefruit fell by nearly 51 and 87 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, availability of other citrus fruits grew: Lemons doubled, while limes increased by nearly 24 times. Year-to-year changes in availability of citrus fruits reflect swings in production caused by weather events, citrus diseases, changes in import or export volumes, and other factors. Longer 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, which are sweeter and smaller. This chart uses loss-adjusted data from USDA, Economic Research Service’s Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System (FADS), April 2023.

Foods with “natural” labels accounted for 16 percent of U.S. consumer food spending in 2018

Monday, June 5, 2023

In 2018, food products labeled “natural” accounted for slightly more than 16 percent of all consumer retail food purchases. USDA and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration require producers to adhere to specific standards or processes to use certain label claims, such as USDA Organic. The “natural” claim, however, has minimal requirements and using the claim on a food product’s packaging does not require that the product provide any health or environmental benefits. Regulatory agencies treat the claim as meaning nothing artificial was added and the product was minimally processed. Even so, consumers sometimes attribute benefits to products labeled “natural,” research studies show. The share of products labeled “natural” varies by food category. The share of spending on “natural” products in 2018 was highest for dairy products (27.7 percent) and lowest for fruits (5.9 percent) and vegetables (5.4 percent). The data in this chart appear in the USDA, Economic Research Service report The Prevalence of the “Natural” Claim on Food Product Packaging, published in May 2023.

U.S. consumers’ eating patterns differ from Federal recommendations

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

U.S. consumers’ eating patterns differ from Federal recommendations for many food categories, and where food is obtained plays a role. Researchers from USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) and the University of Georgia examined diet patterns based on density—amounts of food consumed per 1,000 calories—using the latest available national food consumption survey data collected in 2017–18. They compared average consumption densities of 17 food categories with what would be needed to match the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendations, assuming a 2,000-calorie intake. Average total consumption densities for 11 food categories fell more than 20 percent outside of recommended levels, with whole grains more than 70 percent below the recommended amount. Refined grains, on the other hand, had a consumption density of more than 85 percent above the recommended level. Densities of 6 food categories were within 20 percent of the recommended range. Generally, food purchased at grocery stores, supermarkets, and similar retailers for home preparation had consumption densities more in line with dietary recommendations than food obtained from commercial away-from-home sources (primarily restaurants and fast food establishments). This chart is drawn from the ERS report Dietary Quality by Food Source and Demographics in the United States, 1977–2018, published March 2023.

Apples and oranges squeeze out others as top fruit choices

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Apples held the top spot for total fruit available for consumption in 2021 at more than 26 pounds per person after adjusting for losses. The USDA, Economic Research Service’s (ERS) loss-adjusted food availability data adjusts food availability data for food spoilage, plate waste, and other losses to more closely approximate actual consumption. According to recently released estimates, people in the United States consumed an average of 14.7 pounds (equivalent to 1.7 gallons) of apple juice, roughly 9 pounds of fresh apples, and a total of 3.1 pounds of canned, dried, and frozen apples in 2021. Among the top seven consumed fruits in 2021, apples were the only fruit in which data were available for all five forms: fresh, canned, frozen, dried, and juice. Pineapples were the only other canned option among these seven fruits for which data were available, while strawberries were the only other frozen fruit. Bananas (13.2 pounds per person) topped the list of most popular fresh fruits, while orange juice (16.6 pounds or 1.9 gallons) was the most popular fruit juice in the United States. This chart is drawn from ERS’s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials, updated May 2023.

Nutrient intakes by U.S. consumers differ from Federal recommendations

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

U.S. consumers’ intakes of several key nutrients differ from Federal recommendations. Differences are associated with where they obtain food. Researchers from USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) and the University of Georgia examined diet patterns based on density—amounts of nutrients consumed per 1,000 calories—using the latest available national food consumption survey data collected in 2017–18. They compared average consumption densities of six nutrients with what would be needed to match Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendations, assuming a typical 2,000-calorie intake. On average, intake densities of dietary fiber and iron were more than 20 percent below the recommended level; calcium densities were closer to the recommended level but still fell short of recommendations. Total fat intake was within 20 percent of the highest recommended percent of calories from total fats, which is 35 percent. The density of saturated fats for food away from home (FAFH) and densities of sodium from all sources (total, food at home, and FAFH) were more than 20 percent above the recommended limit. Generally, the nutrient densities of food purchased at grocery stores, supermarkets, and similar retailers for home food preparation were more in line with dietary guidelines recommendations than those of food obtained from commercial FAFH preparation sources (primarily restaurants and fast food establishments). This chart appears in the ERS report Dietary Quality by Food Source and Demographics in the United States, 1977–2018, published March 2023.

Share of online organic food sales tripled in recent years

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Markets for organic food began emerging in the 1970s as consumers became concerned about the growing use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides and their effect on the environment and health. At that time, standards were developed on a State-by-State basis, and organic foods were largely sold in natural food stores. Natural food stores, both large and small, remained the major outlet for organic food sales until the mid-2000s. In 2000, USDA established the National Organic Program and set organic standards for production, along with consistent national labeling. Organic retail food sales moved into conventional grocery retailers, and made up almost 60 percent of retail sales in 2020. Organic food subscriptions such as seasonal fruit baskets, online meal boxes, and other internet sales have created new supply chains for organic food. In 2019, internet sales jumped to 5 percent from 2 percent of total sales in 2012 and rose again in 2020 as consumers responded to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This chart appears in the USDA, Economic Research Service report, U.S. Organic Production, Markets, Consumers, and Policy, 2000–21, published March 2023.

Over time, racial and ethnic gaps in dietary fiber consumption per 1,000 calories have widened

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

According to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, low intakes of dietary fiber are a public health concern for the general U.S. population. Improving consumption of dietary fiber may reduce risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer. The diet of U.S. consumers averaged 8.1 grams of fiber for each 1,000 calories in 2017–18, or 58 percent of the recommended 14 grams per 1,000 calories. Researchers from USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) and an external collaborator analyzed Federal food consumption survey data spanning the years 1977 through 2018 (the most recent available national data). They found that dietary fiber density, measured as grams of fiber per 1,000 calories in food consumed, did not vary much across race and ethnicity in the 1977–1978 and 1989–1991 survey periods, but the gap in fiber density across race and ethnicity has widened over time. Since 1994–98, the diets of non-Hispanic Black people have been significantly lower in fiber density than those of non-Black people. In 2017–18, Hispanic populations and individuals of other races and ethnicities had a diet of 9.2 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories—significantly higher than the 7.7 and 7 grams consumed by non-Hispanic White people and Black people, respectively. This chart appears in ERS’ report Dietary Quality by Food Source and Demographics in the United States, 1977–2018, published March 2023.

School foods are a rich source of fruit in children’s diets

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

In 2017–18, meals, snacks, and other foods obtained at school were the richest source of fruit for children ages 2 to 19. These foods provided an average of 1.36 cups of fruit per 1,000 calories consumed each day. The USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) calculated average daily consumption of food groups and selected nutrients by food sources using food consumption data collected by the USDA and Department of Health and Human Services in 2017–18, the latest year for which data are available. Food sources include foods obtained from grocery stores and similar retailers, primarily for home preparation, and foods obtained from away-from-home establishments, such as full-service and fast-food restaurants, and schools. The fruit food group includes whole fruits (fresh, canned, frozen, and dried) and 100 percent fruit juice. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020–25 recommend individuals 2 years and older consume between 1 and 2.5 cups of fruit per day, depending on age and calorie level of dietary pattern. Breakfasts and lunches from USDA’s school meal programs are required to regularly include fruit. This chart is drawn from the supplemental tables on U.S. food density published in March 2023 with the USDA, Economic Research Service report Dietary Quality by Food Source and Demographics in the United States, 1977–2018.

Chicken leads U.S. per person availability of meat over last decade

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

The supply of chicken available to eat in the United States continues to outpace beef, according to food availability data from the USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS). In 2021, 68.1 pounds of chicken per person were available for human consumption (on a boneless, edible basis), compared with 56.2 pounds of beef. The availability of chicken began to increase in the 1940s, overtaking pork availability in 1996 and surpassing beef in 2010 to become the meat most available for U.S. consumption. Since 1980, U.S. chicken availability per person has more than doubled from 32.7 pounds. There were 47.5 pounds of pork available in 2021, after fluctuating between 42.4 and 49.9 pounds per person over the last four decades. Per person fish and shellfish availability data are available only through 2019, when 19.1 pounds were available per person in the United States, up from the low of 8 pounds in 1943. This chart is drawn from ERS’s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials, updated December 2022.

Cheese and yogurt popularity grew over last four decades

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Overall U.S. dairy consumption rose slightly from 1981 to 2021, but daily cheese consumption more than doubled and consumption of yogurt grew fivefold, according to loss-adjusted food availability data from the USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS). In the data, ERS adjusts the amount of basic commodities available in the food supply by taking into account food spoilage, plate waste, and other losses to more closely approximate actual consumption. Overall loss-adjusted dairy availability totaled 1.5 cup-equivalents per person per day in 2021—half the recommended amount for a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet based on the 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Daily cheese consumption grew to 0.74 cup-equivalents per person in 2021 from 0.36 cup-equivalents per person in 1981. Yogurt consumption increased to 0.05 cup-equivalents per person from nearly 0.01 cup-equivalents. Fluid milk consumption fell to 0.5 cup-equivalents per person in 2021 from 0.8 cup-equivalents per person in 1981. Several factors contributed to this decline, including competition from alternative beverages, an aging population with differing preferences across generations, and changing consumer attitudes regarding milk fats. This chart is from ERS’s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials, updated December 2022.