Thursday, January 19, 2012

Why Do Americans Prefer Cheap Food? And Why Eat So Much of It?

Sorry for the slow posting - this week has been a little rough. But, I did want to get a short post up tonight, so here we have an interesting interactive infographic from
foodservicewarehouse.com comparing total calories consumed per capita by countries; what percentage of income people spend on food, on average; and a bunch of other interesting food facts:


Click on the picture above to be taken to the interactive infographic.

A couple of points stand out from this data presentation: Americans consume more calories on average than any other country, but at the same time, they spend less of their income on food than any other country. Why do Americans prefer cheap food, when they could obviously afford to spend more on food and therefore eat better food?

Cliff Kuang theorizes:
Americans only spend 6.9% of their income on food. Compare that to a country such as Italy, which has a far lower rate of obesity. Italians eat only 100 fewer calories per day than we do--but they spend more than twice [as much of] their income on food ... I would argue that Europeans are willing to pay more for better food because what they eat is so wrapped up with national pride and cultural identity. Why wouldn't you spend the time to buy great ingredients for something homemade if that's how your beloved grandmother did it? Americans, by contrast, have far less of a cultural attachment to the food we eat. We don't have national dishes and food traditions that bind us together in the way of Italy or Greece.
I think he may be on to something. I remember eating a lot of casseroles growing up, and now that I'm an adult, I never make them for myself and I won't ever pass them along to my not-yet-existent children. If anything, my wife and I have mostly reverted to "Old World" food, cooking a lot of different Italian and French dishes, while often throwing South American and Asian into the mix as well.

That doesn't explain the quantity question, however, nor does it account for the fact that immigrants who move to the US usually come to suffer from the same rates of obesity as native-born Americans withing a relatively short period of time.

For my palate, non-American food just tastes so much better and more complex than typical American fare, which, honestly, we pretty much only eat when we're on the road or visiting our parents, at this point.

OK, writing this post has made me salivate - time to go eat the slow-roasted duck my wife made for dinner!

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