How Much Do Humans Eat By the Numbers? In the United States, It's a Ton
Around the world, people are eating more.
The human relationship to food is a complicated one. We obviously have to eat to survive, but for the most privileged humans, foodies, food is something to indulge in for fun rather than a necessity. There’s a real pleasure that comes from chowing down for the sheer joy of it, but it also comes with a lot of waste — a harsh reminder that for many, food is a fuel that’s really hard to acquire.
Accordingly, food consumption by the numbers varies around the world — and [the benefits people get out of the meals they eat differ widely. Here’s a taste of what food consumption looks like in America and around the world.
A Year in the United States
As of 2011, the average American adult eats 1,996 pounds of food per year. This number, calculated by economists at the United States Department of Agriculture, includes the 31 pounds of cheese Americans eat annually on average and the 85 pounds of fats and oils we consume. Luckily, it’s not just pounds of junk we put in our systems: The USDA’s data shows Americans eat about 273 pounds of fruit and 415 pounds of vegetables.
A Minute in the United States
Despite all the food we eat, we spend a surprisingly small amount of time actually consuming** it. In 2011 a research team led by USDA economist Karen Hamrick examined survey data collected between 2006 and 2008 by the Economic Research Service and the National Cancer Institute, discovering that on an average day Americans aged 15 or older spent 67 minutes a day only* eating and drinking. They discovered that Americans also spent an additional 23.5 minutes eating while doing something else and 63 minutes drinking while doing something else.
Calories Around the World
Numbers collected by Our World in Data, a database project produced at the University of Oxford, reveal that the average daily intake of calories has steadily increased from 1961 to (at least) 2013 around the globe. While the breakdown shows that the caloric supply in Europe and Oceania has remained pretty consistent for the past 50 years, the caloric supply in North America rose until it plateaued in 2000, and in Asia and Africa, those numbers continue to rise.
In North America, the average is 3,663 kilocalories a person per day, while in Europe it is 3,367. In Oceania, people intake about 3,216 kilocalories on average, while in South America it’s 3,027. Asia and Africa rank the lowest, at 2,779, and 2,624 kilocalories respectively.
While millions of people still don’t receive enough food to live a healthy life, these calorie counts do show that when it comes to food supply, this century is more equal than the last.
Protein Around the World
There’s been a steady rise in global protein consumption as well, with the daily average rising from 61 grams in 1961 to 81 grams in 2014. This increase has predominantly happened in Africa, Asia, and South America while consumption has leveled out in Europe, Oceania, and North America
The per capita intake of protein is about 60 percent higher in North America than it is in Africa. As of 2013, the North American daily intake was about 109 grams. In Europe and Oceania protein intake was approximately 101 grams, while in South America it was 86 grams. In Asia it was only 7 grams, and in Africa only 6 grams.
In the United States, a huge amount of the protein we get comes from the consumption of animals. The average American eats about 185 pounds of meat and poultry a year.