“One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating,” said Luciano Pavarotti. Let’s stop whatever we’re doing now to devote our attention to data on eating, as a kind of food for thought.
Wolfram|Alpha now has food supply estimates from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, covering more than fifty foods spanning over forty years for countries all over the world. Let’s visit three countries to see what we can find.
First stop, the Caribbean. Type in “cuba wheat” and you’ll see a dramatic downturn in the early 1990s, following the demise of the Soviet Union (Cuba’s most important trading partner).
Now let’s go over to the Korean peninsula. Let’s check out South Korea’s coffee versus tea consumption.You’ll see that coffee intake has increased by several factors since 1970, as the country has become increasingly westernized, while tea consumption has gone up just a little:
Final stop, North America. In contrast to South Korea, we can see a slow decline in per capita coffee consumption in the United States; according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), increased availability of carbonated soft drinks may be one cause of the downturn.
Although these estimates do not directly measure actual quantities consumed, but rather amounts of food available for human consumption, they still provide a reliable means of examining and comparing food consumption worldwide. We’ll be adding more food and agriculture data in the future—including food production, import and exports, and prices—so keep checking back for new additions to this dataset.