The U.S. food supply, then and now

There’s an interesting post today from Sociological Images on how the U.S. food supply has changed over the past 40 years. If you’re a data geek, here is more information on how the USDA Economic Research Service came up with the numbers.

In 1970, an average of 2,168 calories per day was available to the U.S. consumer, and the single largest source was “meat, egg & nuts”:

In 2008, an average of 2,673 calories was available — an increase of 505 calories. The largest jumps were in “grains” and “added fat,” which both saw an increase of over 200 calories, accounting for the majority of the overall increase in caloric availability:

Note that food availability does not equal food consumption, but data on availability do serve as popular indicators of consumption patterns. Also, since these data reflect availability at the national level, they don’t necessarily match food availability in specific geographic areas. Might be worth taking a step back the next time you’re in the local supermarket (or even just looking into your cart) to see how your own consumption patterns — and your community’s — measure up.

Importantly, SI reader Chorda also notes that the increase in “added fat” calories corresponds to a much lower amount in dry weight (~0.9 oz) versus a ~2.2 oz  increase in available grains. In other words, another way of thinking about the 505-calorie increase is to combine “two tablespoons of oil with three tablespoons flour and one tablespoon sugar…could you even get a single pancake out of that?”

More SI food-related posts here.

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