According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) only 10.4 cents of an average dollar spent on food within the US is spent on the actual production of the food. The other 89.6 cents are spent on processing, packaging, transportation and trade, food services and others. This numbers indicate that most of the food consumed within the US is already processed when the consumer buys it, often times it is a finished meal consumed at a fast food joint or in a restaurant. Therefore, the reverse argument is that only few people in the US buy raw products and cook at home. Evidence is provided by the USDA.
According to Carlos A. Monteiro (2009), meals prepared at home out of whole foods and minimally processed products have adequate nutrient and energy density when they contain a varied combination of plant foods (grains, vegetables, pulses, fruits, nuts), only moderate quantities of animal foods, and little salt (see Monteiro, 2009). Ultra-processed food, such as Subway-Sandwiches, Dominos-Pizza and products in the freezer-section at the supermarket have a low nutrient and energy density while containing a lot of sugar and fat. Ultra-processed foods are often consumed in the US, as the above data shows. This leads to one of the highest per capita consumption of daily calories in the world. The health issues are evident: obesity and overweight are branded as diseases.
Education is a key factor in changing this trends. People need to know how to cook and prepare meals at home, using whole foods and minimally processed products. Yet, education is not the only factor. People in the US hold the world record for spending the fewest time on eating.
Fig. 4: Graphic by the Atlantic (undated).
The US society needs to rethink the value of food and eating and change its way of life when it comes to food consumption. The government needs to take the right steps toward promoting healthy food by increasing access to whole food products, educate people about how to prepare whole foods and the importance of taking time to prepare food and eat.
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- USDA (2016). 2014 Food Dollar (nominal): Industry Group. Accessed on 10.06.2016 under http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/chart-gallery/detail.aspx?chartId=40083&ref=collection&embed=True
- USDA (2016). Percent of per capita disposable income spent on food in the united states, 160 – 2014. Accessed on 10.06.2016 under http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/chart-gallery/detail.aspx?chartId=40094&ref=collection&embed=True
- USDA (2016). Calorie availability and share of consumption expenditures spent on food at home. Accessed on 10.06.2016 under http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/chart-gallery/detail.aspx?chartId=40098&ref=collection&embed=True
- The Atlantic (undated). Time Spent Eating Per Day v. National Obesity Rate. Accessed on 10.06.2016 under http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2010/01/why-is-american-food-so-cheap/33259/
Monteiro, Carlos A. (2009). Nutrition and health. The issue is not food, nor nutrients, so much as processing. Public Health Nutrition, 12 (5), 729 – 731