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Food Availability and Consumption

ERS’s Food Availability data measure annual supplies of several hundred raw and semi-processed food commodities moving through the U.S. marketing system, providing per capita estimates of the types and amounts of food available to U.S. consumers over time and identifying shifts in eating patterns and food demand. A second data series covering 1970 onward—the Loss-Adjusted Food Availability data—adjusts for losses from the farmgate to the fork, including damaged products, spoilage, plate waste, and other losses to more closely approximate per capita consumption.

In 2012, 56.6 pounds of chicken per person on a boneless, edible basis were available for Americans to eat, compared to 54.5 pounds of beef. Chicken began its upward climb in the 1940s, overtaking pork in 1996 as the second most consumed meat. Since 1970, U.S. chicken availability per person has more than doubled.
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U.S. cheese availability stood at 33.5 pounds per person in 2012. Mozzarella and cheddar together accounted for 62 percent of cheese availability in 2012. Per capita cheese availability has almost tripled since 1970, when it was 11.4 pounds per person. Cheese owes much of its growth to the spread of Italian and Mexican cuisines and to innovative, convenient packaging.
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In 2012, 138.9 pounds per person of caloric sweeteners were available for consumption by U.S. consumers, down from a high of 160.9 pounds in 1999. Availability of total corn sweeteners (high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), glucose syrup, and dextrose) has fallen from 83.1 pounds per person in 1999 to 61.4 pounds in 2014, partly reflecting rising sales of zero-calorie drinks at the expense of HFCS-sweetened soft drinks.
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Americans consumed an estimated 2,568 calories per person per day in 2010, up from 2,109 calories in 1970.  Grains (mainly refined grains) and added fats and oils contributed 405 calories to this 459-calorie increase. Dairy products were the only food group that contributed fewer calories in 2010. In 1970, the meat, eggs, and nuts group provided more daily calories than any other food group.
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While Americans are consuming more dairy products and vegetables than in 1970, the average U.S. diet still falls short of USDA’s MyPlate recommendations for three major food groups. Americans, on average, consumed more than the recommended amounts of meat and grains in 2012, but less than the MyPlate-recommended amounts of vegetables, dairy products, and fruit.
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According to ERS’s loss-adjusted food availability data, Americans consumed 52.3 pounds per person of potatoes and 31.1 pounds of tomatoes in 2012. Half of potato consumption was fresh, while 59 percent of tomato consumption was canned. French fries and pizza contribute to the high consumption of these two vegetables. The third highest vegetable, onions, came in at 8.1 pounds per person.
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Americans ate an average of 107.6 pounds of fresh and processed fruit per person in 2012, down from a high of 131.3 pounds in 1999. Bananas and apples top the list of most popular fresh fruits, with bananas at 10.3 pounds per person beating out apples at 9.9 pounds. Orange juice consumption at 24.8 pounds (2.8 gallons) per person in 2012 puts oranges in the #1 spot for total fruit consumption.
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Last updated: Monday, May 19, 2014

For more information contact: Jeanine Bentley

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