New Report: Americans Love Pizza

Seven facts from the Department of Agriculture this month confirm the importance of pizza in the minds and bodies of Americans.

Like football, pop music, and democracy itself, pizza follows in the long American tradition of things that began overseas before the United States imported, violently altered, and eventually defined the institution. Although the first pizza shops didn't open in the U.S. until the early 20th century, hundreds of years after the original Neapolitan pies, we now spend $37 billion a year on pizza, accounting for a third of the global market. 

The obsession deepens. On any given day, about 13 percent of Americans eat pizza, according to a new report from the Department of Agriculture. One in six guys between the ages of two and 39 ate it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner today. In part due to this obsession, per capita consumption of cheese is up 41 percent since 1995.

Drawn from the report, here are seven facts about Americans and pizza, presented free of moralizing comments about whether or not it is healthy or sensible for the American diet to consist so overwhelming of bread adorned with tomato-cheesey gloop.

- About 1 in 8 Americans eats pizza any given day. Pre-teeners eat about 2x the national average, while Americans over 60 eat about half the national average.

- More than one-quarter of boys between 6 and 19 eat pizza every day. Women eat less pizza than guys at just about every age level, but girls between 6 and 19 still eat more pizza than any other category of guys.

Percentage of U.S. population who consumed pizza on any given day (USDA)

- Pizza-eaters get between a quarter and a third of their daily energy from pizza. Although 40- and 50-somethings aren't the most avid pizza eaters, they get the highest share of calories from them on the days when they do order or make a pie.

Percentage of daily energy intake contributed by pizza among consumers of pizza (USDA)

- In a typical pizza-eating session, an adult consumes 744 calories. A Double Quarter-Pounder with Cheese at McDonald's has 750 calories.

- On a typical pizza-pie-eating day, pizza accounts for 39 percent of our saturated fat. As well as 37 percent of our calcium, 35 percent of our protein, and a majority of our delicious lycopene.

Percentage of daily intake of energy and selected nutrients contributed by pizza 
among children and adults who consumed pizza (USDA)

- A typical daily pizza serving accounts for more than half of our lycopene diet. Lycopene, the natural chemical that gives fruit like tomatoes its red color, has been found to have antioxidant and anti-cancer effects in animals, but it's not clear it has the same effect in humans, according to the Mayo Clinic.

- Four percent of pizza eaten by children is for breakfast. "Bagel Bites" taught us that when pizza is on a bagel, you may eat pizza anytime, and kids have taken the lesson. Although pizza is predominantly a dinner food for adults, 58 percent of pizza consumption for kids (teens and under) is for snacking, breakfasts, and lunches.


Percentage of pizza consumed by eating occasion for children and adults (USDA)


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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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