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Numbers Behind Various Sectors of the Holiday Food Industry

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For many people, the holidays are a time of togetherness, celebration and traditions like a holiday meal.

Census Bureau statistics show that thousands of employees and several food industry sectors make this possible.

There were 233,960 employees with an annual payroll of $8.1 billion in the poultry (turkey, chicken, and duck) processing industry in 2019, according to the most recent data available in the Annual Survey of Manufactures (ASM), 2019.

To give you a taste, we trace holiday food fare every step of the way from agriculture and manufacturing to distribution by wholesalers and retailers.


There were 233,960 employees with an annual payroll of $8.1 billion in the poultry (turkey, chicken, and duck) processing industry in 2019, according to the most recent data available in the Annual Survey of Manufactures (ASM), 2019. This includes poultry frozen, canned, cooked, or prepared fresh. The reported value of shipments that year: $64.9 billion.

The dairy industry is another important part of the holiday food ecosystem. Establishments that manufacture dairy products reported $122.1 billion in value of shipments and 149,282 employees in 2019.


Produce and Dairy

Fruit and vegetable manufacturers across the country labor to provide fresh produce for the holidays. In California, the nation’s top fruit and vegetable manufacturer by sales and number of employees, the industry employed about 25,209 people with shipments valued at about $11.4 billion in 2019, according to the ASM.

In 2019, of the 149,282 people employed by U.S. dairy manufacturers, about 74.8% were production workers. Production workers that year spent about 227.4 million hours manufacturing dairy products.

Wisconsin is the top producer of dairy by sales and value of shipment which explains the nickname “Cheeseheads” for Wisconsin residents. The industry employed 23,664 workers in 2019. California, another leading dairy producer, employed about 18,536 dairy workers.

Wholesale workers play an important role in the distribution of holiday goods from farm to table. In 2019, there were 4,731 U.S. wholesale establishments (employing about 110,215 workers) that primarily distributed fresh fruits and vegetables, according to the Census Bureau’s 2019 County Business Patterns (CBP).

Dairy and poultry product wholesalers employed about 41,157 and 9,607 people, respectively, in 2019.


Grocery Stores

In 2019, there were 62,932 supermarkets and other grocery stores in the U.S. employing about 2.6 million workers, according to the CBP.

These establishments typically employ workers in the double digits as cashiers, stock people and managers, and to perform other duties in special departments.

In some states, a large percentage of grocery stores have fewer than five employees. The state with the most small grocers is New York, where 63.9% of the grocery stores are establishments with fewer than five employees, according to the 2019 CBP.

Evergreen Establishments

Restaurants and other eating establishments are lifesavers for those who opt for the no-fuss no-mess holiday meals. In 2019, there are 583,446 restaurants in the United States, employing about 11.1 million workers, according to the 2019 County Business Patterns .

These establishments ranged in size, with about 26.5% of the eateries employing fewer than five employees in 2019.


Meat Consumption

Americans consume more than three times as much pork as turkey, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). In 2021, per capita meat consumption in the U.S. was projected to be about 225 pounds, including 51.6 pounds of pork and 15.7 pounds of turkey.

More data on agricultural projections is available from the USDA.


Lynda Lee is a supervisory survey statistician in the Census Bureau’s Data User and Trade Outreach Branch.

Derick C. Moore is a senior communications specialist in the Census Bureau's Communications Directorate.



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