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Food Crisis? Not According to What's on a US Plate

Food Crisis? Not According to What's on a US Plate

There has been a lot of finger pointing about what's to blame for the global food shortage. Some claim global warming, or gobbling up certain foods for ethanol means less for eating, or just harvests coming up short. All of this may be true, but add to that the newest figures from the United States Agriculture Department from 2007 and Americans can point a fat finger at themselves too.

Ready for this? It's gut-check time: the Agriculture Department states that while one Indian eats roughly 392 lbs of grain in a year, a US citizen eats 2,306 lbs. — over five times greater. Yup. And it's not just Indians — US citizens also eat twice the amount of an EU citizen and three times the amount of someone living in China. To see the specifics,


In terms of meat consumption, the US leads the world per capita by a beefy mouthful. In America it is 94 lbs per person compared to 3.5 lbs in India and 13 lbs in China. True a significant portion of Indians are vegetarian, but even in liquid milk consumption Americans use 172 lbs per year for each person while India has 79.3 lbs and China 24.2 lbs.

As for African grain and milk consumption, both are as low as one might expect given the political and economic woes that continually plague the continent. In 2007, foodgrain consumption was 357 lbs per year for each person and as for meat or milk products, the figures were too insignificant to count.

What factors are behind the discrepancies in these numbers? Do US eaters have an obligation to cut down on their chowing down? Should the US government step in to help equalize what's on the global menu?


Join The Conversation
idawson idawson 9 years
and i think ultimately whatever we think about u.s. consumption when compared to the rest of the world, because of the overall world supply/demand equation, at some point prices will go up for us too. you may already notice it in the grocery stores and some restaurants. that is why i think some folks are pushing local/communal acquisition of food.
idawson idawson 9 years
Here is information about the "world food crisis" as outlined on the bbc webiste. it is mostly facts and figures but it gives you an overall picture of what is going on.
blooditsnotfunny blooditsnotfunny 9 years
guys, it is great to think and talk about helping people out... I encourage all of you to go out and practice what you preach! And, if you can find an honest charity that will really give money/food to people that need it, let me know!
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
Change would be nice hypno. :)
jubex jubex 9 years
still about the catholic church...i think it's one of the most irresponsible institutions ever....knowing what's happennig in africa due to HIV and hunger, how can the pope critizise the use of condoms??i will never understand religion
jubex jubex 9 years
auntie coosa: your comments are so....i don't even know the english word to describe you even know what is socialism or marxism? an advice: go read a history book or some marx and then you won't look so brainwhashed ...and "So, do I think I should take food out of my puppies' mouths and give it to some dictator or some socialist or marxist? NO."...i don't know if you ever heard about FASCISM but that is are willing to let someone starv to death because of their political views...congrats...and about the catholic church...don't even make me's one of the most rich intitutions in the world and it bases their belives in what jesus said, i always thought it included helping the poor instead of personal gains, no matter the hipocrisy it's even more disgusting...have you ever been to vaticano? i'm sorry if i'm being too harsh on you, but your comments really represent what people around the world that hate america think about your country...thank god every american doens't think like you....and please stop critising islam, you cleary don't know what you are talking about nd, at last, do you ever heard about climate crisis, natural disasters, and so on...? it also explain food your argument it's just....again, i don't know the word to describe it
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 9 years
Change can be fast or slow Undave35 but change is never the less inevitable.
thelorax thelorax 9 years
right on stiletta.
girlnone girlnone 9 years
Wow, yesteryear, that slideshow on Time's website was really eye-opening.
mondaymoos mondaymoos 9 years
I can't imagine not eating left overs from restraunts or from food I cook at home. Seriously, throwing away food in my house is a huge deal. But I'm also the type of person who sees a spot of mold on 1 piece of bread... and tears that piece off and eats it anyway. Sure, like I said earlier, I buy what I want to eat. It's my money, I earned it, and I'm going to eat what I want. But I HATE being wasteful. If it's in my pantry/fridge, I'm going to eat it. Well. Except for those random cans that have been in the back of my pantry for 3+ years.
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
That would be a great idea Hypno. Unfortunately, I don't see the current adult generations taking a reverence towards anything but themselves.
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 9 years
Well this is clearly a problem that will only be resolved by allowing the knowledge of the consequences of such a dietary lifestyle to permeate our collective conscience. As conscience is enlightened thus begins the shift and our attitude towards food consumption will hopefully begin to take on some sort of reverence to the costs of production and the consequences of gluttony and waste which will allow us to make better choices for ourselves, our environment and the world.
raciccarone raciccarone 9 years
When AC gets on a roll, it's best to just to kick up your feet, grab a beer and watch the fun. Don't get hung up on the details.
NYFashionista NYFashionista 9 years
UM...Auntie Coosa...Lahore is in Pakistan. Not India.
Auntie-Coosa Auntie-Coosa 9 years
THIS is why I am so negative about helping other Countries. LAHORE: Reports of poor checks at the wheat procurement centres about weighing the grain is leaving much to be desired by the Punjab food department. INDIA can't even weigh their own wheat properly, do you think they won't cheat if the USofA gives them wheat or rice or money to buy such?
Auntie-Coosa Auntie-Coosa 9 years
Oh, yes, PORTION sizes. If any of you are old enough or have family old enough, ask them the sizes of the original McDonald's hamburger. You know the "dollar buger"? That is about the size of the original. And the Big Mac tasted better back in the '60's, too.
Auntie-Coosa Auntie-Coosa 9 years
Sorry to offend you "iheartmonster" but I just call it as I see it. The Catholic Church has numerous programs in Africa which cost the American and African nothing . . . we take care of our Religious orders and they have vowed 'poverty' among other things. If you want all your money to go for a certain cause, give it to Catholic Charities. 100% goes to Africa which is donated to Africa. But why should the USofA be saddled with saving the world? Point well taken in another post. We're paying interest on money so nicely loaned to us by China, yet China isn't feeding its impoverished and malnourished. Whose fault is that? If a Nation has a rich ruling class and an impoverished lower class, it's not the USofA's problem to solve with money or food stuffs given to the rulers. THEY have their bellies full. And remember, money given to the UN is not used for the purpose given. Most of it is skimmed off the top by various political entities, usually rich ruling classes in Third World Countries. CAPITALISM will follow FREEDOM in nearly all cultures, although it may take a while to become comfortable in some cultures. You want to make a difference? Write your Congressmen and women and tell them what you think. will get you to their email addresses.
Nina_79 Nina_79 9 years
American sizes are mostly ridicules. It's the idea the more is better. I prefer quality over quantity and would rather eat less food but healthier and organic or locally produced things. And America has the most obese people, so it's not surprising the country consumes the most food. What I would like to know is what amount of food is thrown away each day (not just in America but in other countries in Europe ect. as well). I suspect if that would be evenly distributed then nobody would go hungry. I have to strongly disagree that other countries are going hungry just because they are socialist or dictatorships. Of course there is a connection, but for centuries (since colonization) the west has been exploiting the south, and this is still going on today. We talk about freedom and equality, but we don't give it to other countries because our freedom and super sized cheap meals are much more important.
marciawww marciawww 9 years
I don't know how far our country is in debt now, maybe it's in the trillions and I don't know why we keep giving billions of dollars of food away each year while we keep going further into debt. I believe in helping people but apparently we can't afford to. We have a lot of people in this country who need help too.
i-heart-monster i-heart-monster 9 years
Should the US government step in to help equalize what's on the global menu? Absolutely not. And it's not because I don't care about the other 7 billion people on this planet. I do. But our government needs to focus on us and stop playing world police/world savior. We can donate to relief organizations as Americans and not have our government meddle with geopolitical food problems. Want to stop starvation in Africa? Let the farmers have heirloom seeds and stop Monsanto from sending genetically modified seeds that cannot be saved and replanted for the next crop. Teach them how to save seeds and replant next season. Education paired with a little aid to start off with is always better than a whole lot of aid that cannot perpetuate itself. I support organizations that do just that - teach needy people how to become self-sufficient. As for us as Americans cutting our consumption, I kind of agree with Mondaymoos - we can afford it, so we eat it. I don't think that's insensitive yesteryear, I just think it's factual. We live in a society that is innundated with convenience food - not only boosting grain consumption, but boosting waste as well because everything is individually packaged. Which leads me to comment portions. I totally agree with fuzzles - when we eat out (which we all do for different reasons - pure luxury, time crunch, laziness, etc.) we get humongous portions! Have you ever tried to order off of the kids menu? They tell you no. Then they make you buy the food that you're not going to eat. I have hated it since I was too old to eat off of the kids menu, but again, it's our 'supersized' way of life as Americans. And before you go jumping all over my case - this doesn't apply to all Americans, just a lot of us. And stiletta, I don't think you sounded cold at all. hypnoticmix - you make good points, but it's just so hard to fight that industry - we need a coalition to fight the food oligopolies dontcha think?
stephley stephley 9 years
I think in the late 70s and 80s, as more families started living on two incomes, going or sending out for meals became more common - one because neither adult wanted to come home from work and start cooking and two, because it was a luxury they could now afford.
KrisSugar KrisSugar 9 years
I don't know how many others feel this way, but when I was a kid, going out to eat was a super big deal! You only went out to eat on special occasions, and my mom thought it was expensive and wasteful to order appetizers if we were going to get a whole plate of food to follow. Now, it seems like people go out to eat every day, sometimes more than once. And fuzzles is SO right. Most of the time I can barely eat half of what's on the plate in a restaurant, and I honestly don't like leftovers either! I try my best to ask them to leave off what I know I won't eat. When did people become such restaurant goers? Or was it always that way, and I just grew up in a bubble?
fuzzles fuzzles 9 years
I agree that we Americans are wasteful. That picture is a typical Applebee's-type restaurant amount of food. Seriously, WTF? That is enough food for three or four meals. I can't think of anyone that would be able to shovel that entire meal in one setting. And since many don't like leftovers, an awful lot of these sort of meals see the trash bin as a final destination. All the more reason to cook at home, or learn if you don't know how. It's not rocket science.
stiletta stiletta 9 years
See? That sounded very cold and uninviting, but I didn't mean it to be. There should be a key that you could type to exhibit "friendly tone" or "warmth". Computers simply don't have the capacity to communicate with any sense of humanity, but I suspect that's their purpose. My God, I have been on this site for hours! It's so addictive. You are all so smart and passionate. Even the ones who seem like they're insane have such intelligent comments (sometimes). How do you all do it?
stiletta stiletta 9 years
Pop, I didn't think you were challenging me. It's hard to state facts in writing without sounding cold and somewhat uninviting. As for the term "food insecure", it is a term utilized by the Agriculture Dept. because it is a notch above "abject starvation". I used the term malnourished because when a child does not have enough nourishment, that literally means "malnourished". This to my mind fits the definition of "someone who does not have access to enough food to fully meet basic needs at all times".
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