Where does the food in grocery stores come from? With increased consumer consumption and demand, the food on the shelves may be imported rather than domestically produced. In the United States, the amount of imported food continues to increase as Americans consume more products that are either not locally available or not grown fast enough to meet consumer demands. The United States (U.S.) imports a wide variety of foods, including fish and shellfish, fruits and nuts, vegetables and red meat. Because of cheaper labor costs overseas, buying an imported apple may be cheaper than buying one grown domestically.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. imports billions of dollars worth of seafood from China each year. Farm-raised seafood such as tilapia, shrimp, salmon and catfish is shipped directly from China. Because these fishes are commonly frozen even when farmed and sold domestically, shipping from China doesn't diminish perceived quality of the fish. Other imported foods in this category include grouper, haddock, whiting fish, red bream, squid, flounder, Atlantic cod, crab and lobster.
Fruits and Nuts
Imports of fresh fruits and nuts steadily increase each year, with Costa Rica and Mexico being the top suppliers to the U.S. This is due in part to their proximity to the U.S. and ability to import fruits closer to their picking time. Nuts come from many different regions: Brazil nuts from South America; cashews from Africa, India and Vietnam; Guatemalan macadamias, and Spanish or Chinese pine nuts are a few. Fresh fruit arrives daily into the U.S. from Canada, Mexico, Chile and Peru. The list of fruits that are frequently imported from these countries include produce like bananas, pineapples, avocados, apples, honeydew melons, blueberries, cantaloupe, mangoes, nectarines and lemons. Importing fruit items from other countries can be more cost-effective because of lower labor costs. Additionally, tropical and sub-tropical countries also have longer and more temperate growing seasons allowing for imports nearly year-round, even to parts of the U.S. where weather prevents growing fresh fruit.
As is the case with other foods, the U.S. imports billions of dollars' worth of vegetables from other countries. Mexico dominates the supply of imported vegetables, supplying peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, corn, pinto beans, broccoli, cabbage, onions, lettuce, celery, squash and spinach, to name a few. Other important suppliers like Canada and Peru supply carrots, cauliflower, asparagus, mushrooms and potatoes.
Each year, Canada exports millions head of cattle and pigs to America. Although the U.S. is one of the world's largest exporters of beef, the country still imports beef from New Zealand, Uruguay and Australia. The importation of veal, pork, lamb and mutton has increased rapidly over the past several decades. The USDA has stated that the driving force of the growth in importing meat includes rising incomes and the preference of U.S. consumers for a greater variety of red meat.