ERS Charts of Note
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Monday, June 5, 2023
In 2018, food products labeled “natural” accounted for slightly more than 16 percent of all consumer retail food purchases. USDA and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration require producers to adhere to specific standards or processes to use certain label claims, such as USDA Organic. The “natural” claim, however, has minimal requirements and using the claim on a food product’s packaging does not require that the product provide any health or environmental benefits. Regulatory agencies treat the claim as meaning nothing artificial was added and the product was minimally processed. Even so, consumers sometimes attribute benefits to products labeled “natural,” research studies show. The share of products labeled “natural” varies by food category. The share of spending on “natural” products in 2018 was highest for dairy products (27.7 percent) and lowest for fruits (5.9 percent) and vegetables (5.4 percent). The data in this chart appear in the USDA, Economic Research Service report The Prevalence of the “Natural” Claim on Food Product Packaging, published in May 2023.
Tuesday, May 23, 2023
U.S. consumers’ eating patterns differ from Federal recommendations for many food categories, and where food is obtained plays a role. Researchers from USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) and the University of Georgia examined diet patterns based on density—amounts of food consumed per 1,000 calories—using the latest available national food consumption survey data collected in 2017–18. They compared average consumption densities of 17 food categories with what would be needed to match the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendations, assuming a 2,000-calorie intake. Average total consumption densities for 11 food categories fell more than 20 percent outside of recommended levels, with whole grains more than 70 percent below the recommended amount. Refined grains, on the other hand, had a consumption density of more than 85 percent above the recommended level. Densities of 6 food categories were within 20 percent of the recommended range. Generally, food purchased at grocery stores, supermarkets, and similar retailers for home preparation had consumption densities more in line with dietary recommendations than food obtained from commercial away-from-home sources (primarily restaurants and fast food establishments). This chart is drawn from the ERS report Dietary Quality by Food Source and Demographics in the United States, 1977–2018, published March 2023.
Wednesday, May 10, 2023
Apples held the top spot for total fruit available for consumption in 2021 at more than 26 pounds per person after adjusting for losses. The USDA, Economic Research Service’s (ERS) loss-adjusted food availability data adjusts food availability data for food spoilage, plate waste, and other losses to more closely approximate actual consumption. According to recently released estimates, people in the United States consumed an average of 14.7 pounds (equivalent to 1.7 gallons) of apple juice, roughly 9 pounds of fresh apples, and a total of 3.1 pounds of canned, dried, and frozen apples in 2021. Among the top seven consumed fruits in 2021, apples were the only fruit in which data were available for all five forms: fresh, canned, frozen, dried, and juice. Pineapples were the only other canned option among these seven fruits for which data were available, while strawberries were the only other frozen fruit. Bananas (13.2 pounds per person) topped the list of most popular fresh fruits, while orange juice (16.6 pounds or 1.9 gallons) was the most popular fruit juice in the United States. This chart is drawn from ERS’s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials, updated May 2023.
Tuesday, May 2, 2023
U.S. consumers’ intakes of several key nutrients differ from Federal recommendations. Differences are associated with where they obtain food. Researchers from USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) and the University of Georgia examined diet patterns based on density—amounts of nutrients consumed per 1,000 calories—using the latest available national food consumption survey data collected in 2017–18. They compared average consumption densities of six nutrients with what would be needed to match Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendations, assuming a typical 2,000-calorie intake. On average, intake densities of dietary fiber and iron were more than 20 percent below the recommended level; calcium densities were closer to the recommended level but still fell short of recommendations. Total fat intake was within 20 percent of the highest recommended percent of calories from total fats, which is 35 percent. The density of saturated fats for food away from home (FAFH) and densities of sodium from all sources (total, food at home, and FAFH) were more than 20 percent above the recommended limit. Generally, the nutrient densities of food purchased at grocery stores, supermarkets, and similar retailers for home food preparation were more in line with dietary guidelines recommendations than those of food obtained from commercial FAFH preparation sources (primarily restaurants and fast food establishments). This chart appears in the ERS report Dietary Quality by Food Source and Demographics in the United States, 1977–2018, published March 2023.
Thursday, March 30, 2023
Markets for organic food began emerging in the 1970s as consumers became concerned about the growing use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides and their effect on the environment and health. At that time, standards were developed on a State-by-State basis, and organic foods were largely sold in natural food stores. Natural food stores, both large and small, remained the major outlet for organic food sales until the mid-2000s. In 2000, USDA established the National Organic Program and set organic standards for production, along with consistent national labeling. Organic retail food sales moved into conventional grocery retailers, and made up almost 60 percent of retail sales in 2020. Organic food subscriptions such as seasonal fruit baskets, online meal boxes, and other internet sales have created new supply chains for organic food. In 2019, internet sales jumped to 5 percent from 2 percent of total sales in 2012 and rose again in 2020 as consumers responded to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This chart appears in the USDA, Economic Research Service report, U.S. Organic Production, Markets, Consumers, and Policy, 2000–21, published March 2023.
Tuesday, March 28, 2023
According to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, low intakes of dietary fiber are a public health concern for the general U.S. population. Improving consumption of dietary fiber may reduce risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer. The diet of U.S. consumers averaged 8.1 grams of fiber for each 1,000 calories in 2017–18, or 58 percent of the recommended 14 grams per 1,000 calories. Researchers from USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) and an external collaborator analyzed Federal food consumption survey data spanning the years 1977 through 2018 (the most recent available national data). They found that dietary fiber density, measured as grams of fiber per 1,000 calories in food consumed, did not vary much across race and ethnicity in the 1977–1978 and 1989–1991 survey periods, but the gap in fiber density across race and ethnicity has widened over time. Since 1994–98, the diets of non-Hispanic Black people have been significantly lower in fiber density than those of non-Black people. In 2017–18, Hispanic populations and individuals of other races and ethnicities had a diet of 9.2 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories—significantly higher than the 7.7 and 7 grams consumed by non-Hispanic White people and Black people, respectively. This chart appears in ERS’ report Dietary Quality by Food Source and Demographics in the United States, 1977–2018, published March 2023.
Wednesday, March 8, 2023
In 2017–18, meals, snacks, and other foods obtained at school were the richest source of fruit for children ages 2 to 19. These foods provided an average of 1.36 cups of fruit per 1,000 calories consumed each day. The USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) calculated average daily consumption of food groups and selected nutrients by food sources using food consumption data collected by the USDA and Department of Health and Human Services in 2017–18, the latest year for which data are available. Food sources include foods obtained from grocery stores and similar retailers, primarily for home preparation, and foods obtained from away-from-home establishments, such as full-service and fast-food restaurants, and schools. The fruit food group includes whole fruits (fresh, canned, frozen, and dried) and 100 percent fruit juice. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020–25 recommend individuals 2 years and older consume between 1 and 2.5 cups of fruit per day, depending on age and calorie level of dietary pattern. Breakfasts and lunches from USDA’s school meal programs are required to regularly include fruit. This chart is drawn from the supplemental tables on U.S. food density published in March 2023 with the USDA, Economic Research Service report Dietary Quality by Food Source and Demographics in the United States, 1977–2018.
Wednesday, March 1, 2023
The supply of chicken available to eat in the United States continues to outpace beef, according to food availability data from the USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS). In 2021, 68.1 pounds of chicken per person were available for human consumption (on a boneless, edible basis), compared with 56.2 pounds of beef. The availability of chicken began to increase in the 1940s, overtaking pork availability in 1996 and surpassing beef in 2010 to become the meat most available for U.S. consumption. Since 1980, U.S. chicken availability per person has more than doubled from 32.7 pounds. There were 47.5 pounds of pork available in 2021, after fluctuating between 42.4 and 49.9 pounds per person over the last four decades. Per person fish and shellfish availability data are available only through 2019, when 19.1 pounds were available per person in the United States, up from the low of 8 pounds in 1943. This chart is drawn from ERS’s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials, updated December 2022.
Thursday, February 9, 2023
Overall U.S. dairy consumption rose slightly from 1981 to 2021, but daily cheese consumption more than doubled and consumption of yogurt grew fivefold, according to loss-adjusted food availability data from the USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS). In the data, ERS adjusts the amount of basic commodities available in the food supply by taking into account food spoilage, plate waste, and other losses to more closely approximate actual consumption. Overall loss-adjusted dairy availability totaled 1.5 cup-equivalents per person per day in 2021—half the recommended amount for a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet based on the 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Daily cheese consumption grew to 0.74 cup-equivalents per person in 2021 from 0.36 cup-equivalents per person in 1981. Yogurt consumption increased to 0.05 cup-equivalents per person from nearly 0.01 cup-equivalents. Fluid milk consumption fell to 0.5 cup-equivalents per person in 2021 from 0.8 cup-equivalents per person in 1981. Several factors contributed to this decline, including competition from alternative beverages, an aging population with differing preferences across generations, and changing consumer attitudes regarding milk fats. This chart is from ERS’s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials, updated December 2022.
Thursday, December 8, 2022
In 2021, the amount of caloric sweeteners available for consumption in the United States was 17 percent less than in 1999, falling to 127.3 pounds per person from 153.6 pounds. According to the USDA, Economic Research Service’s (ERS) Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System, a reduction in the availability of total corn sweeteners (high-fructose corn syrup, glucose syrup, and dextrose) contributed to the drop. The availability of corn sweeteners fell from a peak of 85.7 pounds per person in 1999 to 55.3 pounds in 2021. Shifting preferences among consumers and food manufacturers, high corn prices, and competition with refined cane and beet sugars and other caloric sweeteners have contributed to this decline. The availability of refined cane and beet sugars fell from 102.3 pounds per person in 1972 to 60.0 pounds in 1986 and remained relatively flat for the next two and a half decades. Refined sugar availability began to rise in 2010, surpassing corn sweeteners in 2011 and reaching 69.7 pounds per person in 2021. Per capita honey availability stood at 1.5 pounds and per capita availability of edible syrups was 0.9 pounds in 2021. This chart is from ERS’s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials data product, updated December 2022.
Thursday, November 17, 2022
Do people really spend more time preparing food, eating, drinking, and cleaning up the kitchen on Thanksgiving Day compared with other holidays? Do they really spend more time shopping on Black Friday than on other days? The answer to both questions is “Yes.” Over a survey period from 2003 to 2021, people in the United States spent an average of 91 minutes eating and drinking on Thanksgiving Day. This was 21 minutes greater than the time spent eating and drinking on average for six other major holidays and 21 more minutes than on an average weekend day. Similarly, compared with the average for non-Thanksgiving holidays and weekends, people spent more time preparing meals and cleaning-up on Thanksgiving (126 minutes versus 47 minutes on non-Thanksgiving holidays and 36 minutes on weekends). When it comes to the day after Thanksgiving, people in the United States tend to spend more of their time shopping for items other than food relative to other days. Indeed, people spent 41 minutes shopping for non-food items on an average Black Friday, which is more than 240 percent higher than on an average non-Thanksgiving holiday. For more information, see USDA, Economic Research Service’s (ERS) Eating and Health Module of the American Time Use Survey in ERS’s Eating and Health Module (ATUS) data product.
Thursday, November 3, 2022
The overall amount of vegetables available for consumption in the United States has decreased 6 percent over the last two decades to 382.5 pounds per capita in 2020 from 407.3 pounds in 2001. However, vegetable availability rebounded in 2020 from 371.6 pounds in 2019. The vegetables food group is composed of five main subgroups: legumes, other vegetables, dark green, red and orange (including tomatoes), and starchy (including potatoes). Each offers an array of important vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. From 2001 to 2020, the combined share of legumes, dark green vegetables, and red and orange vegetables available to eat in the United States increased to more than 44 percent from 36 percent of total vegetables. Availability of legumes, including beans and peas, increased the most over this period—led by an almost 500-percent jump in dry peas—adding additional variety for U.S. consumers. Some vegetable subgroups have increased in popularity, while others have seen declines. Starchy vegetables and “other vegetables,” a subgroup containing 16 different vegetables, declined to 56 percent of total available vegetables in 2020 from 64 percent in 2001. ERS’s Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System (FADS) provides annual estimates of the per-capita availability for more than 200 food commodities consumed in the United States. This chart uses data from FADS, updated in September 2022.
Tuesday, August 9, 2022
U.S. consumers are increasingly able to use a credit card to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at a farmers market— a retail outlet in which two or more vendors sell agricultural products directly to customers through a common marketing channel. In 2018, 72 percent of U.S. counties reported having at least one farmers market, and 70 percent of those counties reported having one or more farmers markets with the option to purchase using credit cards. The number of farmers markets that report accepting credit cards in a county is provided in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s (ERS) Food Environment Atlas and the underlying data can be accessed and downloaded. The Atlas is an interactive mapping tool with statistics on more than 280 food environment indicators at the county or State level that can influence food choices and diet quality. According to the current Atlas, 1,595 counties—51 percent of all U.S. counties—had one or more farmers markets that accepted credit cards in 2018. However, the market density varied among those counties, with 86 counties having more than 10 farmers markets that accepted credit cards as a form of payment for goods. This map appears in ERS’s Food Environment Atlas, updated September 2020.
Tuesday, June 7, 2022
From 2017 to 2018, meals, snacks and other foods at school were the richest source of dairy for children ages 2 to 19. These foods provided an average of 1.99 cups of dairy products per 1,000 calories consumed each day. The USDA, Economic Research Service’s (ERS) Food Consumption and Nutrient Intakes data product provides calculations of the average daily consumption of food groups and selected nutrients by food sources. It uses food consumption data collected from a nationally representative sample of U.S. consumers by the USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services. Food sources are comprised of foods prepared at home and foods prepared away from home, including foods from restaurants, fast food establishments, and schools. The dairy foods group, as defined by USDA dietary guidance, is a major source of calcium and includes milk, cheese, yogurt, lactose-free milk, and fortified soy milk. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020–25, recommend individuals 2 years and older should consume 2–3 cups of dairy per day, depending on age and calorie level of dietary pattern. Although no age group meets this recommendation, children come the closest, with school foods making an important contribution. This chart was drawn from the ERS’s Amber Waves article, “Food Consumption and Nutrient Intakes Data Product Shines a Light on U.S. Diets”, September 2021.
Thursday, May 12, 2022
During 2020, U.S. households spent 14.5 percent more money to buy meat for at-home consumption as compared with 2019. This increase in spending reflected both an increase in the amount of meat households bought from retailers to offset reductions in what households previously consumed at restaurants and higher retail food prices. Using scanner data from Information Resources, Inc. (IRI), USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) researchers examined and compared U.S. households’ meat purchases in 2020 and 2019 to answer this question: If retail prices for at-home meats had remained at their 2019 levels throughout 2020, how much better off economically would U.S. households have been? Researchers estimated the amount of “welfare loss,” or reduction in U.S. households’ well-being, by determining how much more money would be needed to buy meat in response to retail price changes and be satisfied. Despite maintaining their overall level of meat consumption, U.S. households’ welfare losses in 2020 from increases in retail meat prices were largest during the late spring and early summer when operations at meat-packing plants were most affected by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Those losses peaked at $24.51 per household in June 2020. Higher prices that month for beef accounted for welfare losses of $8.30 per household, for poultry the losses were $8.18 per household, and for pork the losses were $7.07 per household. In December 2020, U.S. household welfare losses were down to $6.19 per household, with higher prices for beef, poultry, and pork accounting for $2.44, $1.89, and $1.54, respectively. This chart appears in the ERS report Quantifying Consumer Welfare Impacts of Higher Meat Prices During the COVID-19 Pandemic, released April 2022.
Monday, April 25, 2022
When people graze, their daily caloric intake and dietary quality may increase, but factors such as the time of day may make a difference. Recently, USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) researchers investigated whether grazing, or eating more than three times a day, affects total daily caloric intake and dietary quality as measured by USDA’s 2015 Healthy Eating Index (HEI). The results show grazing increased total daily caloric intake by 205 calories and increased the daily HEI score by 0.59 points. The HEI gauges diet quality by measuring how well a person’s diet conforms with recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The maximum score is 100, and a higher score reflects better diet quality. ERS researchers used 2 days of U.S. adult food intake data from the National Health and Examination Survey (NHANES) from 2007–18. These data capture detailed information about the types and amounts of food consumed in 2 non-consecutive days, as well as when each food was eaten. Researchers observed how dietary quality differed between morning and evening grazers. Individuals were defined as morning grazers if they reported more than two eating occasions between 3 a.m. and 2:59 p.m. Compared with people who did not graze at all, morning grazers increased their total daily caloric intake by 159 calories and increased the daily HEI score by 0.87 points. Individuals were defined as evening grazers if they reported more than one eating occasion between 3 p.m. and 2:59 a.m. Compared with not grazing, evening grazing increased daily caloric intake by 76 calories and decreased the daily HEI score by 0.41 points. This chart appears in the ERS’s Amber Waves article, “Grazing Increases Daily Caloric Intake and Dietary Quality”, published March 2022.
Friday, November 5, 2021
Foods purchased at grocery stores, supercenters, and other retail venues were exempt from sales taxes in 57 percent of U.S. counties in 2019. The remaining counties taxed food purchases at various levels across 18 states, mostly in the Southeast and Midwest. Alabama’s Tuscaloosa and Cullman counties had the highest grocery tax rate at 9 percent (4 percent State plus 5 percent county). Grocery tax rates not only vary across different States, counties, and cities, but they can also change over time. Using county-level tax data in combination with the USDA’s National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS), researchers at USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) recently examined whether grocery taxes are associated with how much money U.S. households spend for food at retail outlets and restaurants. ERS found that grocery taxes were associated with differences in food spending among lower-income households that were eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) but did not participate in it. Among those households, researchers were able to associate taxes on groceries with reduced food spending at retail stores and increased food spending at restaurants. However, Federal law and USDA regulations stipulate that foods purchased with SNAP benefits are exempt from State and local sales taxes, and no such relationship was found among households participating in SNAP. This chart is drawn from the ERS report Food Taxes and Their Impacts on Food Spending, released September 2021.
Chicken products labeled 'raised without antibiotics' and 'organic' command higher prices than conventional chicken products
Friday, September 24, 2021
Processed chicken products whose labels show they were raised without antibiotics (RWA) were on average $2.23 per pound more expensive than conventional chicken products between 2012 and 2017, representing a 55-percent markup over conventional products. Processed chicken products include fresh or frozen chicken products that are cooked, marinated, breaded, or fried. A recent USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) report shows consumer awareness of antibiotic use in meat and poultry production has increased over the past decade, and a growing market has emerged for chicken products that carry an RWA label. Though raising animals without antibiotics can be costly, producers can benefit from doing so when consumers are willing to pay higher prices for RWA products. Analyzing national household scanner data and a constructed dataset of chicken product labels, ERS researchers also found prices for organic processed chicken products were higher than those with RWA labels. From 2012 to 2017, prices for organic processed chicken products were on average $5.13 a pound more than conventional chicken products, representing a 125-percent total markup. These price differences suggest there are significant market opportunities for production practices that fall somewhere between conventional and the standards required for organic production. This information is drawn from the ERS report, The Market for Chicken Raised without Antibiotics, 2012-17, released September 2021.
Monday, July 19, 2021
A 2020 USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) study analyzed data publicly released for the first time in March 2019 and found that blood plasma levels of trans fats among youth fell by more than three-fifths (61.9 percent) from 1999-2000 to 2009-2010. Trans fats raise artery-clogging “bad” cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein, or LDL) levels and lower “good” cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein, or HDL) levels. Thus, increased intake of trans fats can result in an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease. The decrease in blood plasma levels of trans fats among youth came after a recommendation in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans to limit consumption of trans fats and a Federal Government requirement that trans fats content be included on packaged food labels. While young people are at a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease than adults, intake of trans fats in early childhood and adolescence could set in motion processes that lead to the disease in adulthood. Data on blood plasma levels of trans fats of children (ages 6-11 years) and adolescents (ages 12-19 years) living in the United States were drawn from the 1999-2000 and 2009-2010 waves of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a nationally representative survey that assesses the health and nutritional status of the U.S. population. Blood plasma levels of the type of trans fat often found in partially hydrogenated oils fell by about two-thirds (67.2 percent) from 1999-2000 to 2009-2010, compared with a 60.5 percent decline in blood plasma levels of the type often found in dairy products. This chart appears in the ERS’ Amber Waves article, Trans Fat Levels Among U.S. Youth Fell From 1999 to 2010, June 2021. See also an Amber Waves finding from June 2017, Blood Levels of Trans Fats Among American Adults Fell from 1999 to 2010.
Monday, May 3, 2021
In 2019, 123.2 pounds per person of caloric sweeteners were available for consumption by U.S. consumers, a 19 percent decrease from a high of 151.5 pounds per person in 1999. According to the USDA, Economic Research Service’s (ERS) Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System, availability of total corn sweeteners (high-fructose corn syrup, glucose syrup, and dextrose) contributed to the drop, falling from its peak of 83.6 pounds per person in 1999 to 52.7 pounds per person in 2019. High corn prices, price competition with refined cane and beet sugars and other caloric sweeteners, as well as shifting preferences among consumers and food manufacturers have contributed to this decline. Availability of refined cane and beet sugars fell from 102.3 pounds per person in 1972 to 60.0 pounds per person in 1986, then remained relatively flat for the next two and a half decades. Refined sugar availability began to rise in 2010, surpassing corn sweetener availability and reaching 68.4 pounds per person in 2019. Rising honey imports have contributed to recent increases in per capita honey availability, according to ERS’s Sugars and Sweeteners Yearbook Tables. In 2019, per capita honey availability stood at 1.3 pounds and per capita availability of edible syrups was 0.8 pounds. This chart is from ERS’s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials data product, updated January 14, 2021.