U.S. Consumption Patterns – The Last 100 Years

Be sure to check out the Economic Research Service’s recent report which tracks the last century of our country’s consumption trends.

As you can see, consumption of grain-based products has increased significantly over the past 30 years:


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Per the article:

Between 1972 and 2008, per capita availability of flour and cereal products increased from a record low 133 pounds per person to 196.5 pounds. The expansion reflects ample cereal stocks, strong consumer demand for a variety of breads, growing popularity of grain-based snack foods and other bakery items, and increased eating out that includes products served with buns, dough, and tortillas.

Also, meat consumption – especially chicken – has substantially increased during this time period:


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But what’s hidden in this increase is a concurrent – and indirect – increase in grain consumption. This is primarily due to the development of large livestock processing centers where the animals are fed a diet that is almost entirely grain-based.

And when it comes to fruit, more and more Americans are consuming it in processed forms:


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Ditto with eggs – along with a big surge in cheese consumption:


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Here are the bottom line statistics:


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And the ERS’ conclusions?

Adjusting for spoilage and other losses reduces the estimated number of calories available in 2005 from 4,000 per person per day to 2,705, up from 2,172 in 1970. Supersizing of food portions by food processors, eating places, and cookbook authors accounts in part for the increasing amount of loss-adjusted available calories since 1970. Comparing servings to Federal dietary recommendations shows that Americans eat too many servings from the grains and meat, eggs, and nut groups, and too few servings of vegetables, dairy products, and fruit, assuming a 2,000-calorie diet.

I agree with a lot of this. Americans consume too many grain-based products and too many foods that are highly processed (fruit, eggs, meat, etc.). But this analysis essentially recommends the following for the average American:

- Decrease grain consumption by 23%
- Decrease meat consumption by 17%
- Increase vegetable consumption by 43%
- Increase dairy consumption by 43%
- Increase fruit consumption by 100%

The problem with these recommendations is that they are based upon USDA/HSS Guidelines and the current food pyramid – all of which are the products of scientists, nutrition experts, staff members, and consultants with specific political and research agendas.

And just as important, many of these individuals are subjected to intense lobbying efforts from a variety of food industries.

The key is, we already know we eat too many grains, sugars, and processed foods for our own good. But while the quantities we consume are important, far more critical to our overall health is the quality of the foods we consume.

Remember: you can “tweak” the mix of the foods you consume all you want – but if it’s all unhealthy food it’s still 100% garbage.

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