“This is about the expectation that we’re going to have raspberries when it’s snowing in Ithaca,” said Marion Nestle, a food studies professor at New York University.
Of course, the U.S. government still has high standards when it comes to dining on vittles that were created elsewhere.
For instance, while 85 percent of the apple juice we drink is imported, only about 7 percent of the apples we eat are. Andy Jerardo, an economist at the USDA, says that’s because the juice often comes from China, which produces apples that are inferior for snacking but good for drinking.
And we still get the majority of American dinner staples like wine, red meat and veggies from within the U.S. The U.S. is more inclined to import foods that can be easily stored and won’t spoil quickly. For example, 44 percent of the dry peas and lentils Americans consume are imported.
Also, we’re much less likely to import foods that we already grow a lot of here. Indeed, only about 1 percent of the sweet potatoes we eat – which grow plentifully in states like California and North Carolina – come from outside the nation’s borders. And basically all of our cranberries are from U.S. places like Massachusetts and Oregon.
But stuff like fruit and fish can be a little trickier to gauge.
The USDA’s Kristy Plattner says the percentage of imported fruit has grown because we’re eating more tropical fruits. That’s a result of two things: More Americans have ties to Latino cultures and as a nation, we’re becoming more adventurous eaters.
So, even though we consume fewer apples than we did 30 years ago (about 15.4 pounds per person in the 2010-11 season, down from 19.2 pounds in 1980-81), we eat more mangos (about 2.2 pounds, up from about one-fourth of 1 pound). We also chow on more limes, lemons, kiwi, papayas and avocados.
Fish importing has risen for another reason. The U.S. isn’t building its aquaculture industry, or fish farms, as aggressively as some other countries.
Fish farms supply about half the world’s seafood demand, including about half of U.S. imports, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. But in the U.S., our seafood farms meet less than 10 percent of the country’s demand for seafood.
Lorenzo Juarez, deputy director of the NOAA’s aquaculture office, says the U.S. has stricter environmental and safety standards for its farms. But that’s not to say that the NOAA is opposed to U.S. fish farms.
In fact, the agency sees them as the best way to feed an expanding country, especially in light of USDA recommendations that Americans should expand their seafood intake.
“The amount of fish that can be had sustainably from the wild fisheries is set,” Juarez said. “If we need to increase per-capita consumption, the only way this can happen is through aquaculture.”
In other words, there are only so many fish in the sea.<< previous 1 2