America gets 37% of its calories from sugar and fat. China gets 11%.

The world is eating a whole lot more than it used to. Back in 1962, the average person had about 2,242 calories available to eat each day. But as the world got wealthier, that number soared — up to 2,870 calories per person per day in 2011. Meat makes up 13% of the American diet — and less than 1% of the Indian diet And even those numbers obscure a lot of variation between countries. The US domestic food supply is about 3,600 calories per day, with 13 percent of that coming from meat. By contrast, India’s food supply is about 2,500 calories per person per day — with less than 1 percent of that meat. (Note: "food supply" here refers to the amount of food available per person. But it’s not all consumed, since a fair bit gets wasted.)* Another notable stat: America now gets 37 percent of its calories from sugar and fat. China gets just 11 percent. National Geographic recently created a terrific interactive visualization of the world’s dietary habits, breaking down what each country eats. You should go check it out and play around with their graphics, as they’re absolutely fascinating. But here are a few tidbits I noticed while exploring the charts: 1) Wheat and rice alone provide 37% of the world’s calories (National Geographic) In 2011, the global food supply was about 2,870 calories per person per day, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (though, again, not all of that got eaten). The sources break down as follows: Grains, 45 percent Sugar and fat, 20 percent Meat, 9 percent Dairy and eggs, 8 percent Produce, 11 percent Wheat and rice are arguably the world’s two most important crops, providing about 37 percent of all calories. That varies greatly from place to place, however. In the United States, just 2 percent of calories come from rice. In Japan, it’s 21 percent. (And yes, calories alone aren’t everything — the National Geographic feature lets you look at things by weight as well.) 2) Roughly 19% of calories in the American diet come from vegetable oils Vegetable oils are included under "sugar and fat," in purple (National Geographic) In 2011, the US food supply was roughly 3,641 calories per person per day, on average — the fourth highest in the world. And about 37 percent comes from sugars and fats. Americans caloric intake is up roughly 26 percent from half a century ago. And about half the rise comes from the fact that we consume a lot more vegetable oil than we used to. A few years ago, The Atlantic ran a great piece by Drew Ramsey and Tyler Graham about the rise of Crisco and how vegetable oil displaced butter and lard in cooking over time. Nowadays, vegetable oils account for roughly 19 percent of the calories available to Americans — a higher share than any country save for Spain. (In the chart above, vegetable oils are included under "sugar and fats," in purple. As these statistics from the USDA show, the vast majority of that comes from "salad or cooking oils." 3) The average Chinese eats more meat and produce than the average American (National Geographic) In 2011, China’s food supply was about 3,073 calories per day — double what it was half a century ago. And China’s diet is also starkly different from, say, America’s. The average person in China eats about twice as much produce as the average American. And the average person in China now eats more meat (when measured in calories) than the average American. On the flip side, the average Chinese person eats far less dairy, sugars, and fats. 4) There’s very little meat in the Indian diet (National Geographic) India is still much poorer than both China and India on a per-person basis, and that’s reflected in the diet. India’s food supply is about 2,458 calories per person per day — far less than the US or China. Meat consumption in India has historically been quite low, for cultural and religious reasons. (Both the Jain faith and some Hindu groups eschew meat, and an estimated 31 percent of the country is vegetarian.) But as the country gets richer and the middle class grows, that’s changing. The average Indian now consumes more meat than at any point on record, and the chicken industry in particular is booming. 5) Meat consumption is rising, but some nations have hit "peak meat" (National Geographic) Back in 1961, meat consumption was about 93 grams per person per day. By 2011, the that had risen to 171 grams per person per day. The rise of poultry and seafood are the two biggest stories here. Average beef consumption, by contrast, has stayed roughly flat. That said, there are some interesting variations here. The United States seems to have hit "peak meat" back in 2004. Since then, meat consumption has declined. Americans are eating much more chicken and less beef than they used to: (National Geographic) It’s not just the United States. Per capita meat consumption also appears to have peaked in Argentina, Japan, Spain, Germany, and the United Kingdom. (One curious country is Germany, where meat consumption plummeted after the recession in 1999 and never really recovered.) * Update/clarification: I added in a definition of "food supply" for clarity. This is the amount of food available for human consumption in each country, but it’s not necessarily what people eat, since food invariably gets wasted etc. Further reading This is only a tiny fraction of the great charts and visuals on National Geographic’s site. Go check out their full interactive. Map: Here’s how much each country spends on food Study: Going vegetarian can cut your carbon footprint in half 40 maps that explain food in America


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