For the 100th time, the latest data on U.S. food availability per capita has been released by USDA. The data is accompanied by enhanced features to improve usability, as well as an added multimedia presentation that highlights the uses and implications of the data. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack says the ability to track dietary trends is a crucial element of efforts to combat obesity and prevent its adverse health outcomes.
USDA's Economic Research Service is responsible for the information. Vilsack explains that "food availability" is essentially the per capita amount of food in the U.S. food marketing system available for consumption. ERS economists include production and imports of the various foods, and exclude exports as well as farm and industrial uses, to arrive at an approximation of what Americans consume on average.
Interesting notes taken from the survey include: with women entering the labor force in greater numbers in recent decades, availability of in-shell eggs declined and processed eggs increased, reflecting scarcity of time for preparing breakfast and for baking. Also, cheese availability has skyrocketed, rising from 11.4 pounds per person in 1970 to 31.4 pounds in 2008, owing largely to the popularity of Italian and Mexican eateries as well as innovative cheese products and convenient packaging.