We Are What We Eat June 2008

About This Report

Setting the Table: A person's food choices and eating habits link directly to their mental and physical health.

Main Course: Most Americans eat large quantities of industrialized foods full of empty calories: Only 8% of U.S. adults regularly buy food bearing labels "natural" or "organic."

Check, please: The price of eating processed foods has a measure in the rise in medical conditions such as obesity and the resulting impact on health care and health-care-insurance costs.

In the past few years, more people have become aware of the U.S. food-supply chain because the media have been full of stories of cloned animals, genetically modified foods, contaminated spinach, mad cow disease, and downer cows. In addition, today's grocery shoppers are paying more for a cart of foodstuffs than they did as few as five years ago. Rising fuel prices-affecting transportation costs-and recent skyrocketing grain costs are driving up the share of wallet necessary to put food on the table. For many households, the budget crunch caused by escalating food prices may be only the short-term cost to the U.S. economy. Longer term, the amount of health care that a person will require in his or her lifetime because of poor eating habits has the potential to affect health-care-insurance costs and the taxpayer-subsidized programs Medicare and Medicaid.

In In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan argues that "our personal health cannot be divorced from the health of the food chains of which we are a part." In his earlier work, The Omnivore's Dilemma, Pollan examines the U.S. industrial food chain's reliance on fossil fuel, fertilizers, and corn-subsidized by the U.S. government and the practice of using antibiotics and growth hormones to produce the meat and poultry supply. Pollan argues that through these widely used and accepted practices, we are "feeding ourselves foods far more novel than we realize." Pollan claims that through our willingness to value "eating conveniently" rather than value food's real benefits-nutrition-we not only endanger our personal health but endanger the health of the natural world: the environment. We Are What We Eat explores the VALS™ groups' attitudes about food and health and their grocery-buying behaviors.

Table of Contents

Setting the Table 2
Innovators 6
Thinkers 9
Believers 12
Achievers 14
Strivers 18
Experiencers 20
Makers 22
Survivors 24
Boxes
People Who Buy Food with Labels "Natural" or "Organic" 7
People Who Dine Out Once a Week or More 8
Households' Average Weekly Grocery Bill 8
Meat and Poultry Consumption in the Past Six Months 10
Produce Consumption in the Past Six Months 13
Use of Organic Dairy Products in the Past Six Months 15
Use of Industrialized Foods in the Past Six Months 16
Consumption of Types of Bread in the Past Six Months 18
Source of Medical Insurance 19
Frequency of Eating in Family and Fast-Food Restaurants in the Past 30 Days 20
Environmental Issues Related to Food 23
Exercise 25
Figures
VALS™ Framework 1
Food Pyramid 4

Related Sources