By Allison Aubrey
Do you want cheese with that? Probably.
The Agriculture Department's regular look at American food trends shows we've become a nation of cheeseheads and chicken lovers.
A hundred years ago the average American ate less than five pounds of cheese per year. But in the last three decades alone, consumption has tripled to 31.4 pounds of cheese per head.
Where's all that cheese going? Think pizza. Italian cheeses account for about half of our consumption.
"Americans are drinking less milk but eating more cheese" says the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Jean Buzby, an economist who helps crunch the numbers.
The boom in eating out, which got rolling in the 1970s, parallels cheese's rise in our diet. It's an easy way to add flavor to quick-serve meals, at home or eaten out.
And then there's our changing taste in meat. Chicken is on the verge of overtaking beef as America's favorite meat.
Americans are eating about 60 pounds of poultry per year. Consumption of beef has dropped, while pork has remained pretty steady.
Buzby says chicken's popularity is partly the result of the way poultry producers have packaged their products for convenience. Chicken tenders, anyone?
The USDA figures that consumers' health concerns in recent decades have favored poultry over beef.