The United States is a big maker and seller of food, but did you know it’s also a major buyer of food from other countries?
Because of the weather and changing seasons, some foods can’t be grown here in the U.S. enough to satisfy how much we want to eat. So, many of the foods we see in grocery stores actually come from different parts of the world.
This picture made by Julie Peasley uses information from the Chatham House Resource Trade Database (CHRTD) to show where the U.S. gets its food. It points out the biggest sellers of different imported foods.
The Types of Imported Foods
In 2020, the U.S. will get about $148 billion worth of farm products from other countries. According to the USDA, this number went up to $194 billion in 2022.
About half of everything the U.S. buys from other countries is stuff like fruits, veggies, nuts, and similar things we grow in gardens. There are also other big groups, like sugar and exotic items, meat, grains, and oilseeds.
Subscribe to GreatGameIndia
Now, let’s go through each group and see which five foods come from a single place the most.
Fruit and Vegetable Imports
Since 2000, the United States has been bringing in more fruits and vegetables from other countries. Between 2011 and 2021, around 44% of the fruits and nuts we eat here were imported, and about 35% of the veggies came from outside the U.S.
Mexico leads the way in sending fruits and vegetables to the United States.
In 2020, we brought in tomatoes from Mexico worth $2.5 billion, which is about 31% of all the tomatoes traded worldwide. Avocados, which come from central Mexico, were almost as popular, with imports worth $2.1 billion.
Generally, the big sellers of fruits and vegetables to the U.S. are countries in North and South America. They often send products from places like Guatemala, Chile, Peru, Costa Rica, and Brazil.
The United States really likes beef, more than anywhere else in the world. Each person eats around 84 pounds of it every year, making us third on the list.
Even though we make a lot of beef ourselves, we still buy a bunch from other places.
In 2020, we will get $8.7 billion worth of meat from other countries. Most of our imported beef comes from Canada; over 70% of what they export goes to us.
Unlike fruits and veggies, the places we get our meat from are spread out. We get billions of dollars’ worth from countries like New Zealand and Australia.
Even though we have lots of coastlines, we don’t catch much of our own seafood. We import 70–85% of it, and in 2020, we spent $21.8 billion on seafood from around the world.
The seafood we bring in the most is frozen shrimp and prawns, especially from India, totaling $1.9 billion.
Our biggest seafood supplier overall is Canada, sending us $3.1 billion worth. They’re the leaders in lobster, crab, and whole fish imports. Chile comes next, with $2.1 billion, mostly for fish parts like fillets or fresh meat.
There are various kinds of foods and agricultural items that the United States depends on other nations to provide. Here are the biggest single-source food imports for the remaining groups:
What might come as a surprise are the significant imports, like refined canola oil from Canada, that added up to $1.4 billion in 2020. Additionally, Vietnam sent an impressive $960 million worth of cashews to the U.S.
The quantity and worth of the food brought into the U.S. demonstrate how different tastes are and the value of having a worldwide supply of food. This is especially important as the U.S. is among the leading food producers in the world.
Because countries sometimes need to look outside their borders to meet demands for scarce goods or unique foods, the interconnectedness of the global food system is both crucial and delicate.
What’s apparent is that the American food selection is truly international, as many foods take extraordinary journeys from farms to tables.
Meanwhile, Mayor Eric Adams revealed at an event for the Mayor’s Office of Climate and Environmental Justice that NYC will track the carbon footprint of residents’ food purchases.