How Much Do Fruits and Vegetables Cost?
by Hayden Stewart
, Jeffrey Hyman, Jean C. Buzby
, Elizabeth Frazão
, and Andrea Carlson
Economic Information Bulletin No. (EIB-71) 37 pp, February 2011
What Is the Issue?
Federal dietary guidance advises Americans to consume more
vegetables and fruits because most Americans do not consume the
recommended quantities or variety. Food prices, along with taste,
convenience, income, and awareness of the link between diet and
health, shape food choices. This research updates previous
estimates of vegetable and fruit prices, and estimates the cost of
satisfying recommendations for adult vegetable and fruit
consumption in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
What Are the Major Findings?
We estimated the average retail prices of 153 fresh and
processed vegetables and fruits, where processed includes frozen,
canned, and dried vegetables and fruits as well as 100% fruit
juice. We also estimated the average price per edible cup
equivalent for each vegetable and fruit. This is the consumption
unit used in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and
measures only the edible portion of a food once it has been cooked
or otherwise prepared for consumption. In 2008:
• An adult on a 2,000-calorie diet could satisfy recommendations
for vegetable and fruit consumption (amounts and variety) in the
2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans at an average cost of $2 to
$2.50 per day, or approximately 50 cents per edible cup
• The lowest average price for any of the 59 fresh and processed
fruits included in the study was for fresh watermelon, at 17 cents
per edible cup equivalent. The highest average price was for fresh
raspberries, at $2.06 per edible cup equivalent.
• The lowest average price for any of the 94 fresh and processed
vegetables included in the study was for dry pinto beans, at 13
cents per edible cup equivalent. The highest average price was for
frozen asparagus cuts and tips, at $2.07 per edible cup
• Processed fruits and vegetables were not consistently more or
less expensive than fresh produce. Canned carrots (34 cents per
edible cup equivalent) were more expensive than whole fresh carrots
eaten raw (25 cents per edible cup equivalent). However, canned
peaches (58 cents per edible cup equivalent) were less expensive
than fresh (66 cents per edible cup equivalent).
• Retail prices per pound often varied substantially from prices
per edible cup equivalent. Fresh broccoli florets and fresh ears of
sweet corn both sold for around $1.80 per pound at retail stores,
on average. After boiling and removing inedible parts, however, the
sweet corn cost almost twice as much as the broccoli florets ($1.17
vs. 63 cents per edible cup equivalent).
Costs in the study are defined as the average prices paid by all
American households for a food over a 1-year period, including
purchases in different package sizes, under different brand names,
and at different types of retail outlets (including, among others,
supercenters such as Wal-Mart, wholesale club stores such as
Costco, "traditional" grocers such as Safeway, Kroger, and
Albertsons, and convenience stores).
How Was the Study Conducted?
We used 2008 Nielsen Homescan data to calculate the average
price of a pound (or, for juices, a pint) of 153 fresh and
processed fruits and vegetables at retail stores. In order to
estimate price per edible cup equivalent for each food, retail
quantities were adjusted for the removal of inedible parts and
cooking that occur prior to consumption. For example, 1 pound of
store-bought fresh pineapple yields 0.51 pound of edible pineapple.
Data from the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard
Reference (Release 21) and USDA's Food Yields Summarized by
Different Stages of Preparation were used to estimate edible
weights. The MyPyramid Equivalents Database, 2.0 was used to define
edible cup equivalents.