The Fourth of July: a day for fun, fireworks and food.
It’s a grilling kind of day meant to be spent outside with friends and family, eating and drinking until you feel like you're going to burst. So, as you celebrate America's indpendence, where will your all-American feast come from?
Yes, you know where you bought the food. But unless you made an effort to buy only local produce, it can be hard to know just where your food was grown. If you're in the Midwest, much of your picnic may have been produced nearby.
Hear that sizzle on the grill? That’s your burger/steak/Hebrew National Hotdog.
The Midwest is at the top when it comes to cattle ranching and production. Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, and Missouri all place within the top ten states for cattle ranching in the U.S. In fact, over 50 percent of the total value of cattle and calves comes from the top five states of Texas, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Colorado. In 2011 alone, the United States exported about $4.08 billion worth of beef.
As many Midwest farmers can attest, this is corn country, so there’s a chance your corn on the cob is fairly local.
Around 80 million acres nationwide are dedicated to corn production, according to USDA data; Iowa and Illinois lead the rest of the country by producing over a third of the U.S. corn supply. The Corn Belt, encompassing parts of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan, accounts for the vast majority.
The U.S. grows more corn than any other country in the world. According to the EPA, 12 percent of U.S.-produced corn is consumed either directly (like that cob you’ll be eating) or indirectly (the high fructose corn syrup in your soda) by Americans. The rest of our corn is either exported or used for other purposes, like making ethanol.
Potatoes are considered the fourth-largest produced staple crop in the world and are consumed daily by millions of Americans. According to the United States Potato Board, in 2010 the per capita consumption of potatoes was 74 per year.
Potatoes aren’t exactly a Midwest crop due to their preference for cool and moist climates like those in Idaho, Washington and Maine. That means the potatoes in your potato salad probably traveled a long way to your red, white and blue plate.
Nothing tastes better on a hot July day then a nice slab of watermelon.
The top five watermelon-producing states of Florida, Texas, California, Georgia and Arizona accounted for about 75 percent of domestic watermelon production in 2010, per USDA data. So again, it's unlikely your watermelon was grown nearby. (The Midwestern state of Indiana, though, does have a large watermelon crop.)
Watermelon is enjoyed globally. In 2011, the U.S. exported 342.9 million pounds of the juicy fruit, up 16 percent from 2010 and the third highest amount on record. Still, it’s not quite the all-American snack I thought it was – China leads the world in watermelon production. The U.S. is a distant fourth.
Finally, the dessert of all summer desserts: ice cream.
In 2011 alone, about 1.53 billion gallons of ice cream and related frozen desserts were produced in the U.S. By my math, that’s a lot of sundaes.
Ice cream is definitely a Midwestern treat. Heck, Le Mars, Iowa, the home of Blue Bunny, is the Ice Cream Capital of the World! (According to…Le Mars, Iowa.) Kansas City’s Belfonte ice cream, too, has been serving up tasty frozen treats since it started production in 1985.
No matter where it’s from, this holiday remember: everything in moderation. Happy Fourth of July!