A food dollar represents a $1 expenditure on domestically produced food by U.S. consumers. The food dollar is allocated to expenditures on each of the various food commodities sold in proportions that represent their share of annual sales in the U.S. market. For more information, see the Food Prices, Expenditures, and Establishments page for information on total U.S. food expenditures and U.S. Agricultural Trade for information on the import share of domestic food expenditures.
The Food Dollar Series divides the food dollar into a set of input-component values. There are three primary series—the marketing bill series, the industry group series, and the primary factor series. For each primary Food Dollar Series, the combined input-component values are equal to the $1 output-market value. The three series represent distinct perspectives on the sources of market value for the combined annual food dollar expenditures.
This page provides information on:
- Marketing bill series
- Industry group series
- Primary factor series
- Underlying detailed value added data
- Data sources and estimation methodology
- Recommended citation
The marketing bill series is based on sales proceeds. Proceeds from each food dollar expenditure are divided into two sub-components of market value:
- “Farm share” measures proceeds of farm commodity sales tied to a food dollar expenditure and sold to nonfarm establishments. Farm share does not include sales of farm commodities that are incorporated into other commodities and resold to a domestic farm industry—this eliminates double counting.
- “Marketing bill” is the market value added to farm commodities embodied in a food dollar expenditure, measured as $1 minus the farm share.
For calendar year 2020, the farm share was 16.0 cents of each food dollar expenditure and the marketing bill was 84.0 cents accounting for the remainder of the food dollar.
Value Added Component Series: For establishments contributing to the U.S. food supply, value added for an establishment equals the proceeds from the sale of outputs minus the outlays for commodities purchased from other establishments. The sum of value added by all establishments that contribute to total food dollar purchases equals $1. The industry group and primary factor series are based on this value added concept.
Industry groups are establishments grouped together by type of product or service provided. Twelve industry groupings are examined based on the importance of their contributions to the market value of food. For subcontracting establishments—those not classified into one of the 12 industry groups—their value added contributions are allocated across the 12 industry groups in proportion to the value of goods or services provided to each industry group. The 12 industry groups are:
- Agribusiness—all establishments producing farm inputs (except those described in other industry groups) such as seed, fertilizers, farm machinery, farm services, and all subcontracting establishments.
- Farm production—all establishments classified within the agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting industries.
- Food processing—all establishments classified within the food and beverage manufacturing industries, and all subcontracting establishments.
- Packaging—all establishments classified within the packaging, container, and print manufacturing industries, and all subcontracting establishments.
- Transportation—all establishments classified within the freight services industries and all subcontracting establishments.
- Wholesale trade—all non-retail establishments reselling products to other establishments for the purpose of contributing to the U.S. food supply and all subcontracting establishments.
- Retail trade—all food retailing and related establishments and all subcontracting establishments.
- Food service—all eating, drinking, and related establishments as well as all subcontracting establishments.
- Energy—oil and coal mining, gas and electric utilities, refineries, related establishments, and all subcontracting establishments.
- Finance and insurance—all financial services and insurance carrier establishments and all subcontracting establishments.
- Advertising—all advertising services and related establishments and all subcontracting establishments.
- Legal and accounting—establishments providing legal, accounting, and bookkeeping services, as well as all subcontracting establishments.
For calendar year 2020, farm production value added was 8.0 cents of each food dollar expenditure, implying that 8.0 cents from farm commodity sales (from the 16.0-cent farm share) was used to purchase products from the other industry groups. The 2020 industry group, value added food dollar also indicates about 42.1 cents of the food dollar value covers the services from food retailers (14.2 cents) and foodservice establishments (27.9 cents). Energy used throughout the food supply chain accounted for 3.6 cents of every 2020 food dollar expenditure. Advertising accounted for 2.9 cents of a food dollar expenditure.
Primary factors are assets employed by establishments to use or transform products purchased from other establishments (intermediate inputs) to produce and market a different product. These assets add market value to the purchased intermediate products. In the food dollar accounts, value added is recorded as income to primary factors as follows:
- Domestic hired labor is allocated salary and benefits for services on behalf of a domestic establishment that directs sales towards fulfilling the supply of food to the U.S. market.
- Property income—machinery, equipment, structures, natural resources, product inventory, and other tangible or intangible assets are allocated compensation to various owners for services on behalf of a domestic establishment that direct sales to the U.S. food supply.
- Output taxes—excise, sales, property, and severance taxes (less subsidies), customs duties, and non-tax fees are levied by Federal, State, and local governments independently of establishment dispersals to primary factor owners. Taxes tied to outlays for domestic labor and capital (such as income-based taxes) are not reported separately, but are included in the primary domestic factor returns.
- Imports—international assets are compensated for their services on behalf of non-domestic establishments whose products are imported and are directed to supplying U.S.-produced food to the U.S. market. Because these services cannot be traced to their primary factor sources, their values are measured in the form of the products imported, and their value added is assigned to industry groups with which they are associated.
For calendar year 2020, the primary factor series indicates 51.6 cents of every food dollar expenditure goes to the salary and benefits of domestic workers, 39.4 cents is dispensed as property income, and the remainder is split between U.S. Government (output taxes) and international assets (imports).
Cross-tabulated statistics of primary factor value added data by industry groups are displayed in table form because these data provide more detail than can effectively be displayed in a food dollar visual. The underlying detailed value added data for 2020 are presented below:
Salary and benefits
|Finance and insurance||3.3||0.1||0.1||1.3||1.8|
|Legal and accounting||1.8||0.0||0.0||0.7||1.0|
|Note: Values may not add to totals due to rounding.
Source: USDA, Economic Research Service, Food Dollar Series, 2022.
Food dollar data tables are available in Excel and csv formats; for more information, see Download the Data.
ERS's national input-output Food Dollar Series is based on three data sources:
- Annual input-output (IO) data published every year by the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics;
- Data from the 1997, 2002, 2007, and 2012 detailed U.S. benchmark IO accounts published by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA); and
- IO data published annually by BEA.
Using conventional IO analysis, the annual marketing bill series is estimated for all available years from 1993 to 2020. The current data for 2013 to 2020 are preliminary and subject to revision when the next detailed U.S. benchmark IO accounts are released. The real (inflation-adjusted) 2020 data are also available.
Supply chain IO analysis is used to determine where food dollars end up (as income) by tracing the market value added measures for 12 supply chain industry groups (Industry group Food Dollar Series) and for primary production factors (Primary factor Food Dollar Series). All estimates are reported in both nominal (current price) and real (inflation-adjusted) dollars.
With data for the 1997, 2002, 2007, and 2012 detailed U.S. benchmark IO accounts forming the basis for ERS's Food Dollar Series, U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) IO data are used to index all 1997 Food Dollar Series for annual estimates for 1993 to 1996. BLS IO data are used to index all 2012 Food Dollar Series forward to annual estimates for the years 2013 to the present. The same BLS IO data are used to produce a chain-weighted index for each Food Dollar Series for the years between benchmark estimates—1998 to 2011.
With the BEA release of the 2012 detailed benchmark IO integrated in the Food Dollar Series for this release, a 2012 ERS benchmark was added for each Food Dollar Series; the same chain-weighted indexing methods were applied to update series data for the years 2006–2011, while the indexing procedures previously used to update the 2007 benchmark series data were applied to the 2012 benchmark. For more detail on these data sources and estimation methods, see the 2011 report:A Revised and Expanded Food Dollar Series: A Better Understanding of Our Food Costs
Prior to 2021, to update BLS’ annual IO data released in even-numbered years—or the base year account—to an interim year account reported in oddnumbered years, ERS used a mathematical programming model to reconcile the more detailed base year account with the less detailed interim year account. The mechanics of this process are the same as is described in the ERS report A Revised and Expanded Food Dollar Series: A Better Understanding of Our Food Costs (link above, see page 39, equations A22 to A24), with the added dimension of bringing the accounts forward 1 year. Starting with the 2021 updates, BLS IO data are released annually so the interim year updates are unnecessary.
These additional articles provide useful information about ERS's estimation methodology:
- "Follow the Food Dollars" (2017);
- Canning, P., A. Weersink, and J. Kelly. 2016. "Farm share of the food dollar: an IO approach for the United States and Canada," Agricultural Economics 47: 505–512.
- Kelly, J., P. Canning, and A. Weersink. 2015. "Decomposing the Farmer’s Share of the Food Dollar," Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy 37(2): 311–31.
- "ERS Food Dollar Series Allows an Indepth Look at Farm Level Components of the U.S. Food Dollar" (2013); and
- "A New Look at Where Our Food Dollars Go" (2011).
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Economic Research Service (ERS). Food Dollar Series, March 2022.