Mmm… you can taste the machinery!

Mmm… you can taste the machinery!

I don’t know if any of you caught the small blurb in the NY Times, but it turns out that the US eats more processed food than any other country.  Period.  In fact, it turns out that even some people at the USDA realize that the average American doesn’t really care what goes into their mouth.  According to Mark Gehlhar from the USDA Economic Research Service (ERS):

Americans tend to graze rather than sit down and eat a full meal, so the food is tailored for convenience and Americans do not seem to be as discerning about quality.

That’s pretty harsh, but also kinda true.  Have you ever just wandered around the supermarket?  Between the Cheez Whiz, Chocolate-Chip Pancakes on a Stick and Guacamole made without those pesky avocados, it does kinda make you wonder when Americans just stopped caring what they ate.

Americans eat 31 percent more packaged food than fresh food, and they consume more packaged food per person than their counterparts in nearly all other countries. A sizable part of the American diet is ready-to-eat meals, like frozen pizzas and microwave dinners, and sweet or salty snack foods. […]

The Japanese eat a large amount of packaged frozen seafood, but it undergoes very little processing and has few chemical additives. Some Europeans eat a similar amount of packaged food per capita as Americans, but much of it is bakery bread and dairy products, rather than things like frozen toaster pastries and artificial nondairy creamer.

They have a big ol’ graph that went along with the article for you to check out:

Packaged vs Real Food

Packaged vs Real Food (click to go to the full graph)

You may notice that not only does the US lead in processed food, if you add all the pounds per capita, we also just plain eat more than the others.  Insane, isn’t it?  I mean, the easiest conclusion you could reach from the data above is that Americans want to eat low-quality, highly processed foods.  Why?  What would cause a people to put take off their kitchen apron and throw on a muumuu?

Hopefully with Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution on a major network and Michelle Obama bringing the cause of local, fresh foods to the front line, these facts will change over time.


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4 Comments

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Angela, Jason Kelley. Jason Kelley said: The US sure likes it's processed food. Why eat carrots when you can grab a Hot Pocket? http://bit.ly/cwvucs […]

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  2. I don’t think it will change anytime soon. I believe it is the convenience factor. Preparing fresh food for lunch and snacks would take more time then grabbing a package off the shelf and takeaway from TV time.

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  3. Kel Says:

    Duh, processed food is also CHEAPER!!! Being convenient is one thing, but I believe for most people, price plays a huge factor in what foods are purchased. Lately I have decided to stay away from as much processed food as possible, and I have noticed a jump in my grocery spending.

    Its sad but true. You can eat off the dollar menu of every fast food joint out there, buy mostly processed foods and come out cheaper than buying food that actually needs to be prepared. And the study seems strange. What would count as processed? Are we talking about anything that is frozen or canned as well? Or just things that can’t be found in nature? And did they count things that have a combination of artificial and natural ingredients?

    Given the choice though, I would love to prepare all my meals with stuff that I have to cut up and cook myself. But you know, lets be real. I have two jobs, a budding internet business and recently started working out again. I’m already racking up a huge sleep debt. And I’m sure there are millions like me in this country. We are way too fast paced. Makes me wish there was some “human chow” I could eat and not have to worry about food, processed or not!

    I don’t know. I just tend to take studies like this one with a grain of salt. LOL, food humor…

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  4. Eve Says:

    I know I am commenting ages since your original post, but I stumbled upon another one of your articles and this one caught my eye in the list.

    The finding doesn’t surprise me, as I have noticed, when searching for recipes on the net, that the majority of recipes posted by Americans contain pre-packaged ingredients, rather than those made from scratch.

    For example, bottled spaghetti sauce, pre-prepared pastry, flavour mixes, canned soups etc. I think it is definitely a time-saving mechanism, but I have noticed the over-abundance in American recipes compared to others. We seem to to be unfortunately heading the same way down here in Australia.

    Great blog btw!

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