The USDA keeps track of what percentage of their household budget every country's citizens spend on food, and now there's a map that shows just that.
Brad Plumer of Vox made a couple of really interesting graphs from the USDA's data that show just how much each country spends on food relative to the others, including a shaded world map. While some of the results are expected, some are more than a little eye-opening.
The US, it turns out, spends less on food than anywhere — just 6.1%. You might be expecting that number to be a narrow edge compared to other first-world countries. You'd be wrong: the UK spends 9.1%, and Canada 9.6%. No one else is even under 10%. Granted, this is purely food consumed at home — the USDA doesn't track how much other countries spend on eating out. It does, however, track the US numbers on that, and even then, the US number becomes only 11% — less than every country other than the UK, Canada, and Germany (and only marginally more than Germany, which sits at 10.9%).
So which country's citizens spend the highest percentage of their budget on household food? Pakistan at 47.7%, Cameroon at 45.9%, and Egypt at 42.7% — though one suspects the recent turmoil has an influence on the latter.
You're probably thinking that this just shows that Americans have, on average, higher household budgets than a lot of countries, which is definitely true when comes to countries at or near the higher end of the percentage spectrum. But then you get to Europe, and things get weird. Americans not only spend a smaller percentage of their budget on food, they actually spend less in aggregate: the average American spends $2,273/year, while the average German spends $2,481, and the average Norwegian spends $4,485.
For the most part, citizens of richer countries spend a lower percentage of their budget on food eaten at home — logical, considering that more money means more discretionary income. But there are outliers here, too — Russians spends a full 6.5% more than Indians despite their country's economy ostensibly being much stronger, and South Koreans spend less than do the Japanese, despite the fact that Japan's economy is more than five times bigger than South Korea's.
As Plumer points out, this is due to a variety of factors including differences in taxation and the various cultures of eating out, but the main thing he points to is something else entirely: for whatever else you want to say about them, the way our farm subsidies and industrial agriculture system work definitely keeps the price of food down (though they have had that perplexing and somewhat unique effect of making protein and sweets cheaper while raising the price of produce). Whatever your opinions on GMO's, they definitely bring food prices down, if nothing else.
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