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Potatoes, tomatoes, and sweet corn remain most popular vegetables among U.S. consumers

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

According to ERS?s food availability data, an average of 385.4 pounds of fresh and processed vegetables per person were available for U.S. consumers to eat in 2014, up from 334.1 pounds in 1974, but down from peak per capita vegetable availability of 424.3 pounds in 1996. Potatoes, tomatoes, and sweet corn were the three most popular vegetables in 1974 and remained the most popular in 2014. While per capita availability (a proxy for consumption) of potatoes and sweet corn has declined over the last four decades, per capita tomato availability grew from 73.2 pounds in 1974 to 87.8 pounds in 2014. Fresh tomato availability increased by 74 percent and canned tomatoes by 10 percent. Onion availability also grew from 12.7 to 19.7 pounds per person over 1974-2014. In 2014, cucumbers and romaine and leaf lettuce at 11.3 and 10.8 pounds per capita, respectively, replaced cabbage and carrots in the top 7 rankings. Head lettuce was the fourth most popular vegetable in 1974, but dropped to fifth in 2014, perhaps related to the growing popularity of romaine and leaf lettuce. The data for this chart come from the Food Availability data series, part of ERS?s Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System, updated August 3, 2016.

U.S. per-capita availability of romaine and leaf lettuce has almost doubled over the last 16 years

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

In 2013, 29.6 pounds per person of lettuce and fresh greens were available for domestic consumption, according to ERS’s Food Availability Data. Per-capita availability of lettuce and fresh greens declined by 22 percent from its high of 37.9 pounds per person in 2004. Much of the decrease is due to declining consumption of head lettuce. Head lettuce (iceberg) availability, at 14.1 pounds per person in 2013, has fallen by 41 percent from 24 pounds in 1997. At the same time, romaine and leaf lettuce availability has almost doubled, rising from 6.6 pounds per person in 1997 to 11.4 pounds in 2013. The growing popularity of prepackaged, ready-to-eat salad greens contributed to the rise in availability of romaine and leaf lettuce. Availability of other fresh greens (collard greens, escarole and endive, kale, mustard greens, and turnip greens) came in at 2.5 pounds per person in 2013, while fresh spinach availability was 1.6 pounds per person. The data for this chart come from the Food Availability data series in ERS's Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System.

U.S. pumpkin production and use are growing

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Over the past 15 years, U.S. production of pumpkins for all uses (jack-o-lanterns, fresh and processed food, seed, and other) rose 31 percent, from 1.46 billion pounds in 2000 to 1.91 billion pounds in 2014. The popularity of urban pumpkin patches, fall festivals, ornamental use of pumpkins, and seasonal cuisine have contributed to growing demand for pumpkins in the last two decades. On a per-capita basis, pumpkin use—for both food and ornamental uses—increased 17 percent during this period (adjusted for feed use, shrinkage, and marketing loss) from 4.6 pounds in 2000 to 5.39 pounds in 2014. The ornamental jack-o-lantern has long been the most popular use of pumpkins, but pumpkins are also found in a wide array of food items and beverages, including pumpkin pie, bread, muffins, soup, spice-flavored treats, and seasonal beers. This chart is based on information provided in 2015 Vegetables and Pulses Yearbook.

Potatoes, tomatoes, and lettuce make up close to 60 percent of U.S. vegetable and legume availability

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

When consumers are advised in the produce aisle that “More Matters,” they are not just being encouraged to eat a greater quantity of fruits and vegetables, but more variety as well. Restricting one’s diet to a limited set of vegetables precludes the desired variety that would supply more diverse, healthful nutrients. According to ERS’s Food Availability data, just three vegetables—white potatoes, tomatoes, and lettuce—accounted for 59 percent of the vegetables and legumes that were available for consumption in 2013. White potatoes accounted for 30 percent of the 384.4 pounds per person of vegetables and legumes available in 2013. Tomatoes had a 22-percent share, with 20.2 pounds per person of fresh tomatoes and 65.9 pounds per person of processed tomatoes. Fresh lettuce (head lettuce, romaine, and leaf lettuce) rounded out the top 3 vegetables at 25.5 pounds per person—7 percent of 2013’s total vegetable and legume availability. This chart appears in “Potatoes and Tomatoes Account for Over Half of U.S. Vegetable Availability” in the September 2015 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

Vegetable costs range from 18 cents to $2.58 per cup equivalent

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

When it comes to vegetable consumption, “More Matters.” Eating a variety and sufficient quantity of vegetables is important for good health, but how much would it cost to add some baby carrots, romaine lettuce, or fresh asparagus to your diet? ERS estimated average prices paid in 2013 for 93 fresh and processed vegetables (including beans and peas), 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 fresh iceberg lettuce, fresh whole carrots, dried pinto beans, and 13 other products cost less than 40 cents per cup equivalent, while 58 vegetables, including fresh romaine lettuce, baby carrots, and canned tomatoes, cost between 40 and 79 cents per cup equivalent. Fresh asparagus, at $2.58 per cup equivalent, is the priciest of these 93 vegetables. The data in this chart are from ERS's Fruit and Vegetable Prices data product.

Imports make up a growing share of U.S. fresh vegetable supplies

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

U.S. production of fresh vegetables has grown over the past several decades, but domestic consumption has grown even faster, reflecting an expanding population and higher per capita use. The United States has been a net importer of fresh vegetables since 1969 (with the exception of 1981), and the rate of increase of the share of imports grew notably after 1990. Since 2010, approximately 25 percent of the fresh vegetable supply utilized in the United States has been imported each year. The value of fresh vegetable imports exceeded exports by almost $4.3 billion in 2014. The share of imports in domestic use continues to grow in response to multiple factors, including supply gaps, increased awareness of vegetables as a part of healthy diets, desire for year-round variety of fresh vegetables, and increased demand for new products. Exports have remained a relatively small share of U.S. fresh vegetable production. Average volume exported as a share of production peaked in the 1990s and the share exported to all countries fell approximately 3 percent in 2014 compared to the previous year. Onions and lettuce continue to dominate fresh vegetable exports. This chart is based on the Vegetables and Pulses Outlook: May 2015.

U.S. production of sweet potatoes continues to grow

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

U.S. sweet potato production reached a record high 29 million hundredweight (cwt) in 2014, extending production gains that have continued for more than 15 years. Since 1971, North Carolina has been the top sweet potato producer in the United States, and in 2014 it produced 53 percent of all sweet potatoes grown in the country. North Carolina’s production of sweet potatoes in 2000 was 5.6 million cwt, and by 2014 it had had expanded to 15.8 million cwt. The 185-percent increase in North Carolina’s production has led the growth of the U.S. sweet potato industry, but production has expanded in many other states, including California (where production has doubled since 2000) and Mississippi (where production is up by 155 percent). This chart is from the Vegetables and Pulses Outlook: May 2015.

California drought continues, but produce inflation expected to be near historical average

Monday, April 20, 2015

The California drought continues into 2015—as of March, 42 percent of the State is classified under the exceptional drought rating. Despite these conditions, U.S. fresh fruit and vegetable price inflation is expected to be close to its historical average in 2015. ERS predicts fresh fruit prices will increase 2.5 to 3.5 percent and fresh vegetable prices 2.0 to 3.0 percent. While California does grow a large percentage of many U.S. fresh fruits and vegetables, portions of the produce purchased in grocery stores are imported from various foreign markets. Currently, the strong U.S. dollar is making foreign produce relatively less expensive, putting downward pressure on U.S. retail produce prices. Commodities that are grown almost entirely in California and whose supplies are not largely supplemented by imports could begin to experience higher price increases in 2015. This chart appears in the Food Prices and Consumers section of the California Drought: Farm and Food Impacts page on the ERS website. Information on ERS’s food price forecasts can be found in ERS’s Food Price Outlook data product.

Americans are eating fewer potatoes and less cabbage than previous generations

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Many consumers will celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by preparing a traditional Irish-themed meal of corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes. While cabbage and potatoes remain seasonally popular, annual per capita consumption is trending lower. Beginning in the1970s and through the 1990s, consumption of fresh cabbage averaged about 8.5 pounds per capita, peaking at 9.3 pounds in 1993 with the growing availability of prepared, fresh-cut products such as slaws and salad mixes. Consumption has been trending lower since 2000, reaching as low as 6.3 pounds in 2012 before rebounding somewhat the past two years to 7.0 pounds in 2014. Consumption of fresh potatoes has been declining over a longer period, falling by about 20% during the 1970’s, before stabilizing during the 1980s and 1990s and trending lower again since 2000. The long-term decline reflects changes in the market as well as dietary shifts, including greater availability of processed potatoes (especially frozen) that supplant consumption of fresh potatoes, and growing interest in low-carbohydrate diets during the past decade that reduced consumption of all starches. This chart is based on data found in the Vegetable and Pulses Yearbook and the Food Availability Per Capita Data System.

Contract intentions for processing tomatoes increase in 2013

Thursday, May 23, 2013

California processors, who account for the bulk of U.S. tomato processing, intend to contract for 2.8 percent more processing tomatoes in 2013 than the previous year. If the processors carry through with these early intentions, 2013 output is projected to be 13 million short tons, second only to the record-setting output of 13.3 million short tons in 2009. California produces almost 97 percent of the tomatoes grown nationally for processed products such as sauces, paste, soup, juice, and ketchup. When California’s intended contract production amount is combined with the assumed small amount of State open market (noncontract) purchases (0.1 million tons) and the expected production from other States (which averaged 0.5 million tons in 2010-12), the total U.S. crop of tomatoes for processing could reach 13.6 million tons in 2013. This chart along with accompanying analysis appears in Vegetables and Pulses Outlook: March 2013.

Mexico is the largest supplier of fresh cucumbers to the U.S. market

Friday, May 3, 2013

Mexico supplied 65 percent of fresh cucumber commercial shipments to the U.S. market in 2012. Imports are typically strongest early in the year when U.S. production is limited by cool weather and weakest in summer months during the height of the domestic season. Cucumbers grown under cover in greenhouse (including shadehouse) enclosures represent a growing source for the U.S. market from both U.S. growers and importers. In 2012, cucumbers grown under cover accounted for 20 percent of all shipments: 18 percent were imported and 2 percent were produced domestically. This chart is based on information provided in Cucumbers: Background Statistics in the ERS Newsroom, released on April 29, 2013.

U.S. potato prices drop as production surges

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

In 2012/13, U.S. potato production increased 37.5 million hundredweight (cwt) to 467 million cwt, making it the largest crop since 2000, when 523 million cwt was produced. Most of the increased output was in areas with high potato processing capacities, including Idaho and North Dakota. Fresh-market prices have fallen because of expanding supplies. Lower fresh market prices are forecast to pull down the average farm price to $8.39 per cwt, a drop of $1.02 relative to the 2011/12 marketing year price. If realized, the price decline will be the largest negative year-to-year change since the 1996/97 marketing year, when average prices fell by $1.84 per cwt in a 12-month period. This chart appears in Vegetables and Pulses Outlook, March 2013.

Retail prices of beef, fats and oils, and poultry up the most in 2012

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Overall food-at-home prices rose 2.6 percent in 2012, but this masked a great deal of variation across food categories. For the second consecutive year, beef and fats and oils showed the biggest percentage increases. Beef prices increased due to record low cattle inventories, while surging soybean prices pushed up prices for fats and oils. Poultry prices also increased substantially in 2012, due to a shift in demand away from high-priced beef and pork coupled with higher costs for broiler feed resulting from the Midwest drought. Pork prices, which saw major inflation in 2011, were flat in 2012 as wholesale prices fell due to rising hog inventories and falling exports. Vegetable prices fell 5.1 percent in 2012 as the unusually warm weather led to bumper crops for lettuce, tomatoes, and other vegetables, in sharp contrast to the poor harvests and high vegetable prices of 2011. More information on food price changes and forecasts can be found in the Food Price Outlook data product, updated January 24, 2013.

Fruits and vegetables comparable in price per portion to snack foods

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Replacing calorie-dense snack foods with calorie-sparse fruits and vegetables can be one step in addressing childhood obesity and does not have to compromise a family’s food budget. An ERS analysis of prices per portion for 20 common snack foods and 20 potential fruit and vegetable substitutes found that 9 of the 20 fruits and vegetables and 8 of the 20 snack foods cost 25 cents per portion or less; an additional 8 fruits and vegetables and 10 snack foods cost between 26 and 50 cents per portion. On average, the 20 fruits and vegetables cost 31 cents per portion and the 20 snack foods cost 33 cents per portion. A household making all possible 400 substitutions between the 20 snack foods and the 20 fruits and vegetables would save an average of 2 cents and 126 calories per swap. The statistics in this chart are from "Gobbling Up Snacks: Cause or Potential Cure for Childhood Obesity?" in the December 2012 issue of ERS’ Amber Waves magazine.

Turkey prices have risen faster than general food prices, but usually fall in November and December

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Prices for turkey, a Thanksgiving staple, have increased more than prices for most other grocery store foods in recent years. From 2005 to 2011, average retail turkey prices increased by 47 percent, while food-at-home prices rose by 13 percent. Higher feed costs and energy prices led producers to reduce turkey inventories, driving up retail turkey prices. However, average turkey prices fall every year near Thanksgiving, and most years, retail turkey prices are at annual lows in November or December. Prices of other Thanksgiving foods have not followed similar trends. Potato prices, for example, have increased more in line with food-at-home prices and do not show a strong seasonal pattern. More information on food price changes and forecasts can be found in ERS's Food Price Outlook data product, updated October 25, 2012. For more information on the U.S. turkey sector, visit the Poultry & Eggs topic page on the ERS website.

Seasonal demand for pumpkins increases retail prices

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

U.S. pumpkin production areas are reporting good crop progress for this year's Halloween season. With volume on track, average retail advertised prices for pumpkins in the early weeks of September 2012 were running as much as 25 percent below the same period in 2011. More recently, strong demand has moved prices closer to 2011 levels. Weekly fluctuations in advertised retail prices through mid-October have been within 6 percent (above or below) of the 2011 average. For more information on the U.S. pumpkin sector, visit Pumpkins: Background & Statistics information page in the ERS Newsroom.

Farm share of fresh vegetable retail prices fluctuates around 25 percent

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The value added by food processors, distributors, retailers, and other providers of marketing and distribution services can account for a substantial portion of a food's retail price. ERS compares prices paid by consumers with those received by farmers to determine the farm share of the retail price for many agricultural commodities, including a basket of 16 commonly-purchased fresh vegetables. The farm shares for potatoes, onions, carrots, and tomatoes have a greater impact on the basket's farm share, owing to the relatively larger quantities purchased by American households. The farm share for the fresh vegetable basket rose slightly from 25 percent in 2009 to 26 percent in 2010. Higher farm prices for onions and tomatoes more than offset lower farm prices for broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, Romaine lettuce, and sweet corn. Since 2000, the farm share of the retail price for the fresh vegetable basket has fluctuated between 23 and 28 percent. This chart appeared in the March 2012 Vegetables and Pulses Outlook, VGS-349.

How much do vegetables cost? It depends.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Eating a variety and sufficient quantity of vegetables is an important component of a healthy diet. But is price a barrier? ERS estimated average prices paid in 2008 for 94 fresh and processed vegetables (including beans and peas) 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. The actual amount of vegetables a person should eat per day depends on age, gender, and level of activity. For example, for a 2,000-calorie diet, 2 and 1/2 cup equivalents of vegetables per day is recommended. ERS researchers found that fresh iceberg lettuce, fresh whole carrots, dried pinto beans, and 9 other products cost less than 30 cents per cup equivalent, while 41 vegetables, including fresh romaine lettuce, baby carrots, and canned tomatoes, cost between 30 and 59 cents per cup equivalent. The data in this chart are from ERS's Fruit and Vegetable Prices data product on the ERS website, updated February 2011.

Potato prices continue to rise

Thursday, July 21, 2011

In April and May 2011, the monthly average price received by growers for all types of potatoes topped $11 per cwt (hundredweight, or 100 pounds). The last time the all-potato price hit double digits was in the summer of 2008. At $15.61 per cwt, the average U.S. price for fresh-market potatoes in April was up more than $1 from a month earlier and more than double last year's $7.25 per cwt. Prices for processing potatoes have also been rising this year, hitting $8.38 per cwt in April. This chart is found in ERS' Vegetables and Melons Outlook, VGS-345, June 23, 2011.

Vegetable production is concentrated on large farms

Friday, March 4, 2011

As with most agricultural commodities, vegetable production has become increasingly concentrated over time as larger, more efficient farms have garnered a greater share of the domestic market. Thus, it is no surprise that ARMS data reveal that a majority of U.S. vegetable output comes from the largest farms. About 8 percent of all specialized vegetable and melon farms produced $1 million or more of agricultural commodities per year during 2005-07. These large commercial farms accounted for 87 percent of the total value of U.S. vegetable production. Given the relatively high per acre values of such crops as potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and asparagus, harvested area of these commodities is highly concentrated among farms with more than $1 million in sales per year. This figure is from Financial Characteristics of Vegetable and Melon Farms, VGS-342-01, February 2011.

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