Ten-year snapshot shows changes in food consumption

By Oregon Dept. of Agricultre,
Prices and lifestyle alter what Americans eat

Americans are eating a little less beef and pork, but more poultry. They like their cheese, but drink less fluid milk. Yogurt consumption is up, ice cream consumption is down. And, perhaps surprisingly, total fruit and vegetable consumption per capita has actually dipped despite what generally seems to be healthier eating habits.

All these conclusions are based on the latest look at American consumption of food commodities by the US Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (ERS) over a ten-year period from 1998 through 2007….

Red Meat Down & Poultry Up

The data shows red meat consumption is down from 115.1 pounds per capita in 1999 to 110.6 pounds in 2007. Beef consumption has dropped from 64.5 pounds per capita to 62.2 pounds in 2007.

Consumption of pork, veal, and lamb has also decreased. Red meat’s loss is apparently poultry’s gain. Over the same period, chicken consumption has increased nearly 10 pounds per person, per year, from 50.4 pounds in 1998 to 59.9 pounds in 2007. Turkey consumption has remained fairly stable but the overall category of poultry has done well.

“Poultry consumption is up and I think that is related to packaging, convenience, relative ease of preparation, and certainly price competitiveness when compared to red meat,” says Searle.

Fish & Shellfish Up

Fish and shellfish is another category that has seen some gains in US consumption. In 1998, per capita consumption was 14.5 pounds. By 2007, that climbed to 16.3 pounds per capita….

Fluid Milk Substantially Down

The ERS data shows that fluid milk consumption has dropped from a high of 198.5 pounds per capita in 1998 to 178.2 pounds in 2007. No other commodity in the report has seen a bigger decrease over the last decade…. Whole milk is down from 69.5 pounds per capita in 1998 to 55 pounds in 2007. Lower fat milk has actually increased over the same period of time from 95.6 pounds per capita in 1998 to 96 pounds in 2007.

Ice Cream Down; Yogurt & Cheese Up

A health-conscious America is more often walking past the ice cream aisle in the grocery store on its way to the yogurt section. Ice cream consumption is down from 16.3 pounds per capita in 1998 to 14 pounds in 2007 while yogurt consumption has nearly doubled from just 5.9 pounds per capita in 1998 to 11.5 pounds in 2007. Also on the rise is cheese as consumption is up from 27.8 pounds per capita in 1998 to 32.7 pounds in 2007. Cheese has gained tremendous popularity growth in such entrees as pizza and other quick serve products.

Fruits and Vegetables Down

One of the head-scratchers in the ERS data involves consumption of fruits and vegetables….

The category of all fruits and vegetables shows consumption down from 709.2 pounds per capita in 1998 to 680 pounds in 2007….

Whether it is fresh, canned, or dried, consumption of fruit is down over the 10-year period. Fresh vegetable consumption, on the other hand, is up from 192.8 pounds per capita in 1998 to 202.2 pounds in 2007, even though canned and frozen vegetable consumption has decreased. The buy local campaign and farmers’ markets have influenced fresh vegetable consumption, but so has the industry’s convenient packaging.

Baby Carrots a Big Hit

“Baby carrots, for example, has been a big hit with consumers and so has pre-packaged salads,” says Searle. “Other industry segments can learn from the success of the fresh vegetable industry, which has listened to consumers about the products they want. That has brought more dollars to that industry segment.”

When the statistics for 2008 and 2009 are available, there could be some changes. The price of specific food commodities has an even greater influence during a tough economy. As new trends emerge, agriculture will hopefully respond in a manner that keeps it viable.

For more information, contact Brent Searle at (503) 986-4558.

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