What Does The World Eat?

What the World Eats is a fun, interactive tool built in conjunction with National Geographic’s Future of Food series. It utilises data sourced from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Statistics Division (FAOSTAT) and while it does exactly what it says it does, the use of the word ‘world’ might be a stretch, because although it’s included a number of Southern Hemisphere countries like Australia, Uruguay and Brazil, it’s not included South Africa. But let’s not be surly and harp on that too much, instead let’s take a look at how what the world eats has changed over the last 50 years – from 1961 to 2011 to be exact – which is what this web application does rather well.

In 1961, our citizen-of-the-world ate on average 1.35 kilograms of food per day – in ascending order the daily intake was split as follows:

  • The largest component was Produce at 36%, of which starchy roots comprised 15%, vegetables 13% and fruits 8%
  • Grain at 26%, split between wheat at 11%, rice at 8%, maize at 2% and other cereals at 5%
  • Dairy and Eggs at 17%, split between milk at 15%, eggs at 1% and animal fats at 1%
  • Other at 8%, split between alcoholic beverages at 5%, pulses at 2% and miscellaneous at 1%
  • Meat at 7% with 2% each allocated to beef, pork and seafood; 1% to poultry and 1% to other meat
  • Sugar and Fat at 6%, split between sugar and sweeteners at 4%, and 1% each allocated to vegetable oils, oil crops and sugar crops

The picture changes somewhat for our-citizen-of-the-world in 2011 who now eats on average 1.88 kilograms of food a day, that’s over half a kilogram more than 50 years prior – in ascending order the daily intake is split as follows:

  • Produce at 40% now forms an even larger component of every-man’s diet, but the number of starchy vegetables have dropped while the ratio of vegetables and fruit has increased
  • Grains have dropped from 26% to 21%
  • Dairy and Eggs have dropped from 17% to 15%
  • Meat has increased by one point to 9%, but the biggest difference has been in the allocation: seafood now accounts for 3%, pork and poultry each 2%, beef 1% and other meat 1%
  • Other has remained the same at 8% and the split is similar – clearly we drink as much in 2011 as we did in 1961
  • Sugar and Fat have increased by only one point to 7%

This last one was interesting because we’re pitched as such a sugar-riddled society, but when you look at the in-between years, in the 90s for example, this intake had actually gone up to 8%. We can only assume that the continued anti-sugar movement is what brought this figure down again.
But let’s end on a meatier note (see what I did there) – in 2011, the country to eat the least meat per day at only 2% of the total daily intake was India, and the country to eat the most was Hong Kong at 32%, which equates to roughly 695 grams of meat per day, now that’s more like it don’t you think?