A new Agriculture Department report says there have been some dramatic changes in the mix of foods consumed by Americans since 1970 but some inconsistencies, too.
Of all the meat consumed in 1986, two-thirds was red meat, mostly beef, pork and lamb, compared with three-fourths in the early 1970s."Instead, we ate more poultry, fish, grains and cereal products," the report said Tuesday. "We also cut back on whole milk, while consuming more low-fat milk and yogurt. Fresh fruit and vegetable consumption rose as well."
But the report added: "While there was a general shift toward foods perceived as low in fat or calories, our cheese consumption increased during the period. In addition, consumption rose for fats and oils, frozen potatoes, and corn sweeteners and soft drinks."
And families ate fewer eggs and fresh potatoes and drank less coffee during the 16-year period.
Overall, the consumers responded to higher incomes, new food production and marketing techniques, and changes in lifestyles.
Consumption of red meat declined, but poultry more than took up the slack. Total meat consumption, which includes poultry, gradually crept higher.
The report was prepared by a team in the department's Economic Research Service and was included in the agency's quarterly National Food Review.
In the early '70s, the report said, Americans ate an average of 151 pounds of red meat annually per person, and about 49 pounds of poultry. In 1986, red meat dropped to 140 pounds while poultry averaged 72 pounds.
"Poultry's rise stemmed largely from retail prices that remained well below those for red meats, primarily because of savings passed on from the farm and processing levels," the report said. "As a result, poultry was used to a greater extent in frozen entrees and convenience foods than red meats were."
But poultry's price advantage was not the only factor that affected consumers. Cut-up birds and heavily advertised branded items such as those of Holly Farms, Perdue, Louis Rich and Tysons Foods gained popularity.
Pan-ready or pre-cooked items, along with upscale raw products such as boneless breast fillets, also attracted consumers.