Americans Consume A Whopping Amount Of Canned Tuna Each Year

In today's world of trendy and eclectic Instagrammable foods, you may find it surprising that one of the most-consumed food items in the United States is canned tuna. Known to be economical, convenient, and nutritious, canned tuna remains a tried and true staple in many home pantries (if not an especially photogenic one). 

Until the year 2000 when StarKist introduced innovative new vacuum-sealed foil pouches for its tuna, packaging for traditional canned tuna had undergone little change since being introduced by Albert Halfhill in the early 1900s. StarKist's new packaging is now commonplace in American supermarkets and has the benefit of adding significantly less water to the product. 

However, one of the reasons canned tuna remains a popular food item in kitchens across America is its long shelf life. The USDA suggests that unopened cans of tuna remain safe to consume for up to five years. In addition to having a long shelf life, canned tuna requires no refrigeration and is therefore a popular item to take camping, hiking, or to include as a part of an emergency food supply; it was a notable subject of panic buying in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. But even outside periods of panic, tuna consumption regularly reaches staggering numbers.

Americans eat tuna by the ton

Just how enduring is its popularity? According to the National Fisheries Institute, Americans eat about 1 billion pounds of canned and pouched tuna every year — meaning only coffee and sugar surpass canned tuna in "sales per foot of shelf space" at the grocery store. In the U.S., only shrimp is a more popular seafood item than canned tuna. Worldwide, in 2012, tuna canneries processed over 7.5 billion pounds of tuna, which equates to over 3 billion pounds of canned and otherwise packaged tuna products, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts. Yep, you did the math right — Americans consume about a third of that number.

What does one do with all of that canned tuna? Tuna casserole, tuna salad, and tuna melt sandwiches are all reliable standbys when deciding what to make with your stockpile. Though this is not to say that your choice won't come with some controversy, as U.S. Senator Mark Warner's did when he appalled the Internet with his microwaved, mayo-slathered rendition of a classic tuna melt sandwich back in 2020 — his go-to pandemic "recipe" even drew a concerned tweet from then-vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris

If you're still having a hard time deciding what to do with all that canned tuna — or how to do it correctly — you can always browse the internet to find inspiration for the next Instagrammable canned tuna recipe everyone will be raving (or moaning) about. The average American, after all, has about three pounds per year to experiment with.