United States Department of Agriculture
Profiling Food Consumption in America
Americans at the beginning of the 21st century are consuming more
food and several hundred more calories per person per day than did their
counterparts in the late 1950s (when per capita calorie consumption was at the
lowest level in the last century), or even in the 1970s. The aggregate food
supply in 2000 provided 3,800 calories per person per day, 500 calories above
the 1970 level and 800 calories above the record low in 1957 and 1958.
Of that 3,800 calories, USDAs Economic Research Service (ERS) estimates that roughly 1,100 calories were lost to spoilage, plate waste, and cooking and other losses, putting dietary intake of calories in 2000 at just under 2,700 calories per person per day. ERS data suggest that average daily calorie intake increased by 24.5 percent, or about 530 calories, between 1970 and 2000. Of that 24.5-percent increase, grains (mainly refined grain products) contributed 9.5 percentage points; added fats and oils, 9.0 percentage points; added sugars, 4.7 percentage points; fruits and vegetables together, 1.5 percentage points; meats and nuts together, 1 percentage point; and dairy products and eggs together, -1.5 percentage point.
Some of the observed increase in caloric intake may be associated with the increase in eating out. Data from USDAs food intake surveys show that the food-away-from-home sector provided 32 percent of total food energy consumption in 1994-96, up from 18 percent in 1977-78. The data also suggest that, when eating out, people either eat more or eat higher calorie foodsor bothand that this tendency appears to be increasing.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, an astounding 62 percent of adult Americans were overweight in 2000, up from 46 percent in 1980. Twenty-seven percent of adults were so far overweight that they were classified as obese (at least 30 pounds above their healthy weight)twice the percentage classified as such in 1960. Alarmingly, an upward trend in obesity is also occurring for U.S. children.
Although multiple factors can account for weight gain, the basic cause is an excess of energy intake over energy expenditure. In general, Americans activity levels have not kept pace with their increase in calorie consumption. Many people apparently are oblivious to the number of calories they consume. Calories consistently rank toward the bottom of consumer nutrition concerns, according to the annual national probability surveys "TrendsConsumer Attitudes and the Supermarket" conducted by the Food Marketing Institute. Of respondents in the 2002 survey who said they were either "very concerned" or "somewhat concerned" about the nutritional content of what they eat, only 13 percent cited calories as one of their concerns. That compared with fat (49 percent), sugar (18 percent), salt (17 percent), and cholesterol (16 percent).
A variety of factors are responsible for the changes in U.S. consumption patterns in the last 50 years, including changes in relative prices, increases in real (adjusted for inflation) disposable income, and more food assistance for the poor. New products, particularly more convenient ones, also contribute to shifts in consumption, along with more imports, growth in the away-from-home food market, expanded advertising programs, and increases in nutrient-enrichment standards and food fortification. Sociodemographic trends also driving changes in food choices include smaller households, more two-earner households, more single-parent households, a taller population, an aging population, and increased ethnic diversity.
ERS estimates per capita food and nutrient supplies based on food disappearance data. These data are used as a proxy to estimate human consumption. The data reported in tables 2-1 through 2-6 are unadjusted for spoilage and waste, so they may overstate what is actually eaten. The data are used more appropriately as indicators of trends in consumption over time.
Meat Consumption at Record
Nutritional concern about fat and cholesterol has encouraged the production of leaner animals (beginning in the late 1950s), the closer trimming of outside fat on retail cuts of meat (beginning in 1986), the marketing of a host of lower fat ground and processed meat products, and consumer substitution of poultry for red meats since the late 1970ssignificantly lowering the meat, poultry, and fish groups contribution to total fat and saturated fat in the food supply. Despite near record-high per capita consumption of total meat in 2000, the proportion of fat in the U.S. food supply from meat, poultry, and fish declined from 33 percent in the 1950s to 24 percent in 2000. Similarly, the proportion of saturated fat contributed by meat, poultry, and fish fell from 33 percent in the 1950s to 26 percent in 2000.
Eating Out Cuts Milk, Boosts
Consumption of beverage milk declined from an annual average of 36 gallons per person in the 1950s to less than 23 gallons in 2000. Consumption of soft drinks, fruit drinks and ades, and flavored teas may be displacing beverage milk in the diet. Big increases in eating away from home, especially at fast-food places, and in consumption of salty snack foods favored soft drink consumption.
The beverage milk trend is toward lower fat milk. Whole milk represented 92 percent of all beverage milk (plain, flavored, and buttermilk) in the 1950s, but its share dropped to 36 percent in 2000.
Average annual consumption of cheese (excluding full-skim American and cottage, pot, and bakers cheeses) increased 287 percent between the 1950s and 2000, from 7.7 pounds per person to 29.8 pounds. Lifestyles that emphasize convenience foods were probably major forces behind the higher consumption. In fact, more than half of our cheese now comes in commercially manufactured and prepared foods (including food service), such as pizza, tacos, nachos, salad bars, fast-food sandwiches, bagel spreads, sauces for baked potatoes and other vegetables, and packaged snack foods. Advertising and new productssuch as reduced-fat cheeses and resealable bags of shredded cheeses, including cheese blends tailored for use in Italian and Mexican recipesalso boosted consumption.
and Swells Use of Salad
and Cooking Oils and Shortening
But the decline in average consumption of added fats was short lived. Between 1997 and 2000, per capita consumption of added fats jumped 17 percent, from 64 pounds per person to 74.5 pounds. Fat plays an important role in enhancing the flavor of foods. Many consumers found the taste of the new low fat (3 grams of fat or less per serving) and fat-free versions of foods unacceptable. Accordingly, many companies reformulated their low-fat and fat-free products in the late 1990s, adding some fat to improve taste. Some consumers, who rejected the low-fat and fat-free versions, have accepted reduced-fat products (1/3 less fat than full-fat versions). Many other consumers have resumed eating full-fat versions. According to a 2000 Roper Reports survey of a nationally representative sample of 2,000 Americans 18 or older, the percentage of Americans who say they are eating "pretty much whatever they want" was at an all-time high of 70 percent in 2000, up from 58 percent in 1997.
Although Americans apparently have relaxed their efforts to curb consumption of added fats, they are choosing to eat healthier fats. Olive oil and canola oilhigh in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats that lower blood levels of bad cholesterol but not good cholesterolcaptured 23 percent of the salad and cooking oil market in 2000, up from less than 4 percent in 1985.
Average use of added fats and oils in 2000 was 67 percent above annual average use in the 1950s (table 2-3). Added fats include those used directly by consumers, such as butter on bread, as well as shortenings and oils used in commercially prepared cookies, pastries, and fried foods. All fats naturally present in foods, such as in milk and meat, are excluded.
Americans in 2000 consumed, on average, three-and-three-fifths times more salad and cooking oil than they did annually in the 1950s, and more than twice as much shortening. Average use of table spreads declined by 25 percent during the same period.
In the 1950s, the fats and oils group (composed of added fats and oils) contributed the most fat to the food supply (41 percent), followed by the meat, poultry, and fish group (32 percent). By 1999, the fats and oils groups contribution to total fat had jumped 12 percentage points to 53 percent, probably due to the higher consumption of fried foods in foodservice outlets, the increase in consumption of high-fat snack foods, and the increased use of salad dressings. Margarine, salad dressings and mayonnaise, cakes and other sweet baked goods, and oils continue to appear in the top 10 foods for fat contribution, according to recent USDA food intake surveys, which indicates the ongoing prevalence of discretionary fats in Americans diets.
In the last two decades, Americans have been more successful in reducing the fat density in home foods than in away-from-home foods, according to food intake surveys. In 197778, both home and away-from-home foods provided slightly more than 41 percent of their calories from fat. By 1987-88, the fat density of home foods had declined to 36.4 percent of total calories from fat, compared with 38.7 for away-from-home foods. Since then, the fat density of home foods declined steadily to 31.5 percent of calories from fat, but fat from away-from-home foods declined only slightly to 37.6 percent of calories.
Total fruit consumption in 2000 was 12 percent above average annual fruit consumption in the 1970s. Fresh fruit consumption (up 28 percent during the same period) outpaced processed fruit consumption (up 2 percent). Noncitrus fruits accounted for all of the growth in fresh fruit consumption.
Total vegetable consumption in 2000 was 23 percent above average annual vegetable consumption in the 1970s. As in the case of fruit, fresh vegetable use (up 26 percent during the same period) outpaced processed vegetable use (up 21 percent). The introduction of pre-cut and packaged value-added products and increasing health consciousness among consumers boosted average fresh broccoli consumption by a third between 1995 and 1998 and average fresh carrot consumption by more than a fifth. Highly publicized medical research linking compounds in broccoli with strong anti-cancer activity in the body has added a powerful incentive to consumption.
The popularity of pizza and other ethnic foods in the 1990s boosted average consumption of canned tomato products, but consumption of other canned vegetables declined 13 percent between the 1970s and 1997. The popularity of french fries, eaten mainly in fast-food eateries, spawned a 63-percent increase in average consumption of frozen potatoes during the same period; consumption of other frozen vegetables rose 41 percent.
Consumers Eat Too Much
Refined Grain, Too Little Whole Grain
Many consumers diets now meet or exceed the Food Guide Pyramid serving recommendation for grain products. The Pyramid recommends 9 daily servings of grain products for a 2,200-calorie diet, 6 servings for a 1,600-calorie diet, and 11 servings for a 2,800-calorie diet. The food supply, adjusted for waste in the home and throughout the marketing system, provided an average of 10 daily servings of grain in 2000. This is an underestimate. The food supply database excludes wheat foods not manufactured directly from wheat flour or bulgur. That is, it excludes wheat bran, wheat germ, wheat berries and products manufactured directly from these items, such as Wheaties (cooked, flattened, toasted wheat berries), Shredded Wheat, Puffed Wheat, and All-Bran breakfast cereals and Triscuit crackers. Similarly, it excludes whole-grain foods made directly from field corn (for example, Tostito and Dorito brand corn tortilla chips, corn bran (used in some breakfast cereals), and popcorn. ERS estimates that these missing items would add an additional serving of grains for an average of 11 daily servings of grain in 2000the amount recommended for teenage boys or men who engage in heavy physical activity.
However, most peoples diets fall well short of the recommended minimum three daily servings of whole grain products. The mean daily intake of foods made from whole grains was one serving in USDAs 1996 Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals. According to the survey, only 7 percent of Americans ate the recommended three or more servings of whole-grain foods a day.
Consumption of Caloric
Sweeteners Hits Record High in 1999
USDA recommends that the average person on a 2,000-calorie daily diet include no more than 40 grams of added sugars. Thats about 10 teaspoons, or the amount of sugar in a 12-ounce soft drink. Sugarincluding sucrose, corn sweeteners, honey, maple syrup, and molassesis ubiquitous and often hidden. In a sense, sugar is the number one food additive. It turns up in some unlikely places, such as pizza, bread, hot dogs, boxed mixed rice, soup, crackers, spaghetti sauce, lunch meat, canned vegetables, fruit drinks, flavored yogurt, ketchup, salad dressing, mayonnaise, and some peanut butter. Carbonated sodas provided more than a fifth (22 percent) of the refined and added sugars in the 2000 American food supply, compared with 16 percent in 1970.
Food Expenditures and
While personal food expenditures rose 3.7 percent, disposable personal income increased 5.5 percent from 2000 to 2001. U.S. consumers in 2001 spent 10.0 percent of their disposable personal income (after taxes) on food. This figure compares with 11.6 percent in 1991, 13.0 percent in 1981, and 13.4 percent in 1971.
In the United States, retail food prices (including meals served in restaurants and food purchased at grocery stores) rose 27.0 percent over the last 10 years (1991-2001). Prices of food eaten away from home increased 26.1 percent, while retail food store prices increased 27.7 percent. Prices of all goods and services in the Consumer Price Index climbed 30.0 percent over the same 10 years.
How Much of the Cost of
Food Services and Distribution Goes to Farmers?
The cost of marketing farm foods has increased considerably over the years, mainly because of rising costs of labor, transportation, food packaging materials, and other inputs used in marketing, and also because of the growing volume of food and the increase in services provided with the food.
In 1990, the cost of marketing farm foods amounted to $343 billion. In the decade after that, the cost of marketing rose about 57 percent. In 2000, the marketing bill rose 6.9 percent. These rising costs have been the principal factor affecting the rise in consumer food expenditures. From 1990 to 2000, consumer expenditures for farm foods rose $211 billion. Roughly 92 percent of this increase resulted from an increase in the marketing bill.
The cost of labor is the biggest part of the total food marketing bill, accounting for nearly half of all marketing costs. Labor used by assemblers, manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, and eating places cost $252 billion in 2000. This was 4.7 percent higher than in 1999 and 64 percent more than in 1990. The total number of food marketing workers in 2000 was about 14.3 million, about 17 percent more than in 1990. About 80 percent of the growth in food industry employment occurred in public eating places. A wide variety of other costs comprise the balance of the marketing bill. These costs include packaging, transportation, energy, advertising, business taxes, net interest, depreciation, rent, and repairs. Their relative proportions are illustrated in the accompanying dollar chart.
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