At the zoo we feed our seven chimpanzees a nutritionally complete diet.  But how much do our chimps eat compared to an average American family, assuming your family (like our chimp family) has seven people?

Americans eat a lot of grain.  This includes cereal, pasta, and bread.  A typical person eats 220 pounds of grain products a year, so our family of seven would eat about 1,500 pounds a year.  Our chimps eat something similar, a biscuit made for primates.  These biscuits are nutritionally complete and make up the biggest part of our chimps’ diets.  Our chimps eat 2,900 pounds every year, that’s almost a ton and a half of biscuits, or twice as much as an American family!  Chimps eat pasta too, they get about 300 pounds a year as an extra starchy food source along with 150 pounds of white potatoes.

In addition to biscuits the chimps eat fruit and vegetables.  Who do you think eats more fruits and vegetables, our chimps or an average American?

It turns out our chimps eat a lot more fruit.  Our typical American family of seven eats 133 pounds of apples, 196 pounds of bananas, and 84 pounds of fresh oranges.  Our chimp family goes through 640 pounds of apples, 340 pounds of bananas, and another 340 pounds of oranges!  In addition to apples, bananas and oranges our chimps eat other fruits too.  300 pounds of grapefruit, 150 pounds of pears, and 150 pounds each of cantaloupe, kiwi, and pineapple.

Our chimps also eat a lot of vegetables.   The typical human family of seven eats 210 pounds of lettuce each year.  Our chimps eat seven times that amount: 1,475 pounds of lettuce!  Does your family eat a lot of onions?  The average is 140 pounds for an American family of seven.  It’s still not as much as our chimps.  They eat 550 pounds every year!  They also eat a lot of yams, broccoli, and bell peppers, 365 pounds of each of those.  Other vegetables they eat are: 200 pounds each of carrots and tomatoes, 150 pounds each of zucchini and eggplant, 125 pounds each of cucumbers and celery, 70 pounds of corn, and 23 pounds of cauliflower.

The main difference between a chimp diet and an American’s diet comes from eating animal products. Even though chimps may eat a little meat in the wild, it’s not something they need.  Half of the weight of food an American eats comes from animal products like milk, cheese, eggs, and meat. 

Feeding our chimps is a large commitment.  In total our chimps eat about 9,600 pounds of food a year.  That’s 1,370 pounds of food for every chimp.  How does that compare to you?  Americans eat almost a ton (2,000 pounds) of food, so a chimp eats about 2/3 the amount of food you do.


About Dan Hemmann

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Keeper Dan has always shown an interest in the small things.  This fascination led to a career in Entomology, the study of insects.  He also likes small people, and thinks zoos are one of the best ways to get kids excited about our natural world.  

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#1 Jody Hergenrader said:

I absolutely love watching the chimps. I was there recently and I was trying to interact with Alpha male and truly loved how he was displaying. I have some great photos of him.

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