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Mmm… you can taste the machinery!

I don’t know if any of you caught the small blurb in the NY Times [1], 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) [2]:

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 [3], 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 [4]

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 [5] on a major network and Michelle Obama bringing the cause [6] of local, fresh foods to the front line, these facts will change over time.