Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Americans Ate Less Meat, Less Fat, And More Grains 100 Years Ago

This is a repost from 2008:

The USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) recently updated their three data sets on food availability in the US:
Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System

Food availability doesn't equate directly to food consumption; spoilage and waste aren't accounted for. One of the data sets, Loss-Adjusted Food Availability, "adjusts aggregate food availability data for nonedible food parts and food lost through spoilage, plate waste, and other losses in the home and marketing system." It accounts for some loss but only goes back to 1970, that I can tell.

I can't determine how or if they accounted for food produced by a consumer instead of by a marketing entity. That is, if you're eating eggs from your hens or carrots from your garden, are they accounted for in these data sets?

Still, as a proxy for consumption, they're revealing.

So, did we eat more meat 100 years ago than we do today? (Click graphs for larger.)


Fats and oils:

This one shows just oat products. What's that blip between 1988 to about 1995?

A couple beverage graphs ... First, coffee/tea/cocoa. Imagine if Starbucks was around in the 40s? (When I was growing up, everyone drank hot coffee with breakfast. I see a lot more carbonated beverages these days.)

Is America more a wine- or beer-drinking country?

Using data in their Loss-Adjusted Food Availability Set, I generated this graph for calorie consumption. We're eating (or what is available for us to eat) 519 more calories a day (24% more) than we did in 1970.

You can easily generate these charts on their site. The raw data is accessible in Excel worksheets too. It's what I used for the calorie graph. I could play with this all day.

Photo above is of a kitchen classroom in a housekeeping flat, New York, circa 1910, from Shorpy: The 100-Year-Old Photo Blog. Here's another: "December 1936. Farmer's wife churning butter. Emmet County, Iowa." (Click for larger.)


Bix said...

Did you see the pot of eggs on the counter ... in the bottom photo? (You can click it to blow it up.) That family has quite the hen shop!

caulfieldkid said...

Pure conjecture on my part, but I would be willing to bet we have become more sedentary, as a society, as well. Just sayin'.


Dr. Mel said...

A LOT more sedentary!

Dr. Mel said...

That's a cool photo blog, Bix!