ERS Charts of Note
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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.
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.
Wednesday, March 3, 2021
The U.S. Federal Government announced social distancing guidelines in March 2020 to slow the spread of COVID-19, and many U.S. jurisdictions followed by issuing stay-at-home orders. As a result, many people have been working from home since then, which prompts the question: Do individuals who work from home spend time on their daily tasks differently than those who work away from home? While USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) researchers do not have time-use data from the COVID-19 period for the United States, analyses of past time-use patterns provide some insights. ERS researchers used data from the 2017-18 Leave and Flexibilities Job Module of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Survey to study the amount of time respondents spent in food preparation and eating at home, according to the location from which they worked the day covered by the interview. They found that over an average weekday in 2017-18, prime working-age adults who worked from home were more likely to prepare food (75 percent versus 63 percent) and to spend more time doing so (41 minutes compared with 30 minutes) than individuals who worked away from home. Individuals who worked from home spent 49 minutes eating at home, which was nearly double the amount reported by individuals who worked away from home (27 minutes). Teleworkers may consume a healthier diet if the greater time spent preparing food translates into eating more home-prepared meals and less eating out. Home-prepared meals tend to be lower in calories and higher in positive nutrients than meals prepared away from home, according to studies by ERS researchers. This chart appears in the ERS’ Amber Waves article, “Working From Home Leads to More Time Spent Preparing Food, Eating at Home,” February 2021.
Wednesday, February 12, 2020
In 2017, the per capita supply of red meat, poultry, and fish and shellfish available for Americans to eat, after adjusting for some of the spoilage, plate waste, and other losses in grocery stores, restaurants, and homes, rose to 143.9 pounds, continuing an upward trend that began in 2014 after an earlier decline. The 7.8-percent rise from 2014’s total was largely driven by increases in loss-adjusted availability of beef and chicken. Over 2015-17, beef had the largest percentage increase in per capita loss-adjusted availability—growing by 6 percent. Recovering consumer incomes after the 2007-09 recession and stable or declining retail prices have increased U.S. consumers’ demand for red meat in recent years. For chicken, the recent increase continues an upward trend that saw loss-adjusted availability of chicken more than doubling from 22.4 pounds per capita in 1970 to 52.3 pounds per capita in 2017. Efficiencies in chicken production have expanded supplies and kept prices in check. This chart appears in “U.S. Per Capita Availability of Red Meat, Poultry, and Seafood on the Rise” in ERS’s December 2019 Amber Waves.
Wednesday, January 29, 2020
ERS researchers used data for 2014-17 from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ annual American Time Use Survey (ATUS) to determine when Americans engage in food preparation and to look at gender differences. Over an average day in 2014-17, 54 percent of people age 15 and older engaged in food preparation with a noticeable gender disparity: 65 percent of women prepared food on an average day, compared to 41 percent of men. Counting only those Americans who prepared food on the day recorded in the survey, an average of 51 minutes per day were devoted to the activity, and women devoted more time than men (57 minutes versus 42 minutes). The peak times for food preparation were at 7 to 7:59 a.m. (14 percent), followed by a smaller peak at noon to 12:59 p.m. (12 percent) and a much larger peak at 5 to 5:59 p.m. (28 percent). More women than men engaged in food preparation from 7 a.m. to 6:59 p.m. A version of this chart appears in the ERS report, Food-Related Time Use: Changes and Demographic Differences, November 2019.
Friday, November 29, 2019
Flexible Consumer Behavior Survey (FCBS) module, developed by ERS, has been part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey since 2007. FCBS questions are designed to collect data on U.S. consumers’ dietary knowledge, attitudes, and habits, including their consumption of frozen meals and “ready-to-eat” foods such as salads, soups, chicken, sandwiches, and cooked vegetables from the salad bars and deli counters of grocery stores. Preparing food at home can be a time-intensive activity, and some American adults turn to prepared foods offered in grocery stores when faced with time constraints. ERS researchers used FCBS data to examine changes between 2007–08 and 2015–16 in the frequency of eating grocery-store-prepared dishes and frozen meals and pizzas. Although the average number of times Americans age 20 and older reported consuming frozen meals or pizzas in the past month was similar in both time periods, average past-month consumption of ready-to-eat foods increased by about 26 percent, from 1.9 times in 2007–08 to 2.4 times in 2015–16. Many grocery stores have expanded their ready-to-eat options in recent years. More information from the Flexible Consumer Behavior Survey can be found in the Food Consumption & Demand topic page on the ERS website. This Chart of Note was originally published April 26, 2019.
Tuesday, November 26, 2019
If mashed potatoes are on your Thanksgiving menu, you are not alone. Potatoes rank number one among vegetables in terms of consumption. In 2017, 49.2 pounds of fresh and processed potatoes per person were available for Americans to eat after adjusting for losses, according to ERS’s loss-adjusted food availability data. The loss-adjusted food availability data series takes per capita supplies of food available for human consumption and more closely approximates actual consumption by adjusting for some of the spoilage, plate waste, and other losses in restaurants and grocery stores, as well as at home. Loss-adjusted availability of fresh potatoes was 22.9 pounds per person in 2017, followed by frozen potatoes at 20.5 pounds per person. Loss-adjusted availability of canned and dehydrated potatoes, along with potato chips and shoestrings, totaled 5.9 pounds per person in 2017. While loss-adjusted canned tomato availability, at 16.1 pounds, leads fresh tomatoes, total tomato loss-adjusted availability—fresh and canned—came in second (28.7 pounds per person). Loss-adjusted availability of fresh and dehydrated onions was 11.3 pounds per person in 2017. Head lettuce came in fourth at 8.3 pounds per person while romaine and leaf lettuce surpassed carrots and sweet corn, reaching 6.8 pounds per person. Consumption of carrots and sweet corn finished the list of America’s top 7 vegetable choices. This chart appears in the Food Availability and Consumption section of ERS’s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials data product, updated September 2019.
Thursday, November 14, 2019
As part of the Federal Government’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), respondents are asked whether they see nutrition or health information on fast-food and full-service restaurant menus. If the answer is “yes,” respondents are also asked whether they use that information to decide which foods to buy. ERS researchers compared daily calorie intakes of adults who saw and used the menu information with intakes of adults who noticed the information but chose not to use it. Because information users may differ from nonusers in other ways, ERS researchers also adjusted intakes for differences in socio-demographic characteristics and interview-related factors (e.g., whether intake occurred on a weekday or weekend). Even after accounting for such differences, ERS analysis of NHANES data from 2007–14 reveals that restaurant menu label users consumed 167–180 fewer calories per day than nonusers consumed—a calorie intake gap that is 8 to 9 percent of a 2,000-calorie reference diet. This chart appears in “New National Menu Labeling Provides Information Consumers Can Use To Help Manage Their Calorie Intake” in the October 2018 issue of the ERS Amber Waves magazine. This Chart of Note was originally published March 22, 2019.
Friday, October 4, 2019
In 2017, 113.8 pounds of fresh and processed fruit per person were available for U.S. consumption after adjusting for losses, according to ERS’s loss-adjusted food availability data. This data series takes per capita supplies of food available for human consumption and more closely approximates actual consumption by adjusting for some of the spoilage, plate waste, and other losses in eating places, grocery stores, and the home. Loss-adjusted apple juice availability at 13.8 pounds (1.6 gallons) per person in 2017, combined with fresh apples (almost 10 pounds per person), and canned, dried, and frozen apples (3.4 pounds per person), puts apples in the top spot for total fruit consumption. While orange consumption came in second, loss-adjusted orange juice availability has steadily declined, reaching a low of 18.2 pounds (2.1 gallons) per person in 2017. Loss-adjusted availability of fresh bananas was 14.1 pounds per person in 2017, which is 4 pounds per person more than fresh apples. Loss-adjusted availability of grapes reached 7.6 pounds per person, and strawberries, pineapple, and watermelon rounded out the list of America’s top fruit choices. This chart appears in ERS’s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials data product, updated September 2019.
Thursday, August 29, 2019
Low in calories and saturated fat, and rich in omega-3 fatty acids, seafood is a nutrient-dense source of dietary protein. In 2016, 15 pounds per person of seafood products were available for consumption in the United States, an increase from 11.7 pounds per person in 1970. In 2016, the category with the greatest availability was fresh and frozen fish at 6 pounds per person, followed by fresh and frozen shellfish at 5.3 pounds per person, which more than doubled since 1970. These two seafood categories together accounted for 76 percent of fishery product availability in 2016. Fresh and frozen shellfish availability has steadily increased over the past four and a half decades, surpassing canned tuna in 1991. The third highest seafood product, canned tuna, fell to 2.1 pounds per person in 2016 after reaching almost 4 pounds per person in 1989. Availability of the remaining canned and cured seafood products was 1.6 pounds per person in recent years down from a high of 2.5 pounds per person in 1972. The data for this chart come from the Food Availability data series in ERS’s Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System. This Chart of Note was originally published May 10, 2019.
Friday, June 21, 2019
In 2017, 13.2 pounds per person of fresh head lettuce (iceberg, butter, Boston, and Bibb lettuces) were available for domestic consumption, according to ERS’s Food Availability data. Fresh head lettuce has declined 54 percent from its high of 28.6 pounds per person in 1989. In contrast, availability of romaine and leaf lettuces (such as red and green leaf lettuces) increased, reaching 12.5 pounds per person in 2017 from 3.3 pounds per person in 1985 and almost equaling head lettuce. The growing popularity of prepackaged, ready-to-eat salad greens contributed to the rise in availability of romaine and leaf lettuces. ERS annually calculates national supplies available for domestic consumption by summing domestic production, beginning inventories, and imports and then subtracting exports and ending inventories. Per capita estimates are calculated by dividing these national supplies by the U.S. population. The data for this chart come from the Food Availability data series in ERS’s Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System.