This page provides the following information:

About the data series

The Food Dollar Series measures annual expenditures by U.S. consumers on domestically produced food. This data series is composed of three primary series—the marketing bill series, the industry group series, and the primary factor series—that describe different aspects of the food supply chain. The Food Dollar Series provides an overview of the food system, with informative estimates of the farm share and the distribution of value-added shares of each dollar spent on food over time.

Marketing bill statistics for food commodities have been published annually since the 1940s by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 mandated that USDA measure the cost of marketing U.S. agricultural commodities. USDA, ERS replaced the marketing bill series with the Food Dollar Series in 2011. This was due to measurement problems, the discontinuation of several underlying data sources, and increased interest in evolving supply chain relationships. The Food Dollar Series uses input-output (IO) analysis to calculate the food dollar and its components for the 1993–2022 period. The series is updated annually.

Input-output analysis generates food dollar estimates (and food and beverage dollar estimates) for three food expenditure categories—total expenditures, at-home expenditures, and away-from-home expenditures. For each expenditure category, three primary dollar series are generated:

  1. The marketing bill series splits the food dollar into the farm share and the marketing share. The farm share is the portion of the food dollar that goes to farm establishments for the sales of raw food commodities. The marketing share is the portion of the food dollar that goes to food supply chain establishments for post-farm activities that transform raw food into finished food products.
  2. Because the market value of all food dollar expenditures equals the value added by all food supply chain industries, the industry group series divides the food dollar into total value added for 12 industry groups: agribusiness; farm production; food processing; packaging; transportation services; energy; wholesale trade; retail trade; foodservices; finance and insurance; advertising; as well as legal and accounting services.
  3. The primary factor series divides the food dollar into the value contributions of four primary production-factor groups, including salary and benefits, property income, output taxes, and imports. Then a cross tabulation table divides the food dollar into the primary-factor returns for each industry group. All estimates are reported in both nominal (current price) and real (inflation adjusted) dollars.

Questions and answers

Q: Why revise the entire historical Food Dollar Series?

A: All tables in the Food Dollar Series were automatically revised from 2008 forward, with the integration of new Industry Economic Input-Output Accounts for 2012. The reasons and methodology used by USDA, ERS for this planned revision are described in the following ERS report:

A Revised and Expanded Food Dollar Series: A Better Understanding of Our Food Costs

Since the release of this report, USDA, ERS implemented minor, but important, improvements in the estimation model used to develop all annual food dollar statistics. The improvements address some inconsistencies in the way that standard input-output (IO) accounts represent the U.S. food system, such as how food-away-from-home expenditures at nonconventional eating places (e.g., sports arenas and passenger travel) are traced through the food supply chain and how wholesale and retail establishments in the food industry are distinguished from other trade establishments. The combined changes to the estimation model had little or no impact on some estimates. However, in many cases, changes resulted in both upward and downward revisions in the historical data series.

Q: Why replace the marketing bill series?

A: USDA, ERS's marketing bill series was replaced by the Food Dollar Series in 2011 because the current approach to assessing what food dollars pay for is superior to the former approach in several key ways:

  • The quality, timeliness, and completeness of the source data ensure a complete accounting of the entire food system is derived from a single consolidated data source;
  • A precise approach to measuring and reporting the cost components of the entire food dollar in the current series avoids the potentially confusing divisions of the previous marketing bill series; and
  • The current Food Dollar Series provides a more complete accounting of the modern global food system. For more information, see A Revised and Expanded Food Dollar Series: A Better Understanding of Our Food Costs.

Q: How does the marketing bill series differ from price spreads data?

A: The marketing bill series answers the question: "What is the average price received over a calendar year by farmers for the farm commodities produced for a typical $1 consumer food purchase, and how has this average price changed over time?" The series provides an average across all food and beverage products combined and includes both purchases in retail food stores, such as supermarkets, and purchases in foodservice establishments, such as restaurants. Statistics are reported in both a current-year (nominal) price series and a real-price series holding all prices constant at their reference year levels with the current reference year being 2012. Because all food purchases from domestic production are considered, the mix of products represented, or the market basket changes year-to-year.

The Price Spreads from Farm to Consumer data product also compares prices paid by consumers for food with prices received by farmers for corresponding commodities, but comparisons are for various foods sold only through retail food stores. Prices are reported as a calendar year average and comparisons of farm and retail prices are made for individual foods and groupings of individual foods (i.e., market baskets) representing what a typical U.S. household buys at retail in a given year. The retail costs of these baskets are compared with the money received by farmers for a corresponding basket of agricultural commodities. Food groupings currently include dairy, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, processed fruits and vegetables, and field crops, with each food group encompassing two or more individual food items.