If you were to ask the average American child what a carrot looks like, they would likely endeavor to describe something that more resembles a flame-colored finger: rounded at the edges and uniformly smooth. The idea of carrots being knobby, conical, and deep orange with a feathery green crown is just plainly outmoded after two subsequent decades of baby carrot dominance. The baby carrot, being far more accessible, homogeneous, and kid-friendly, has redefined our notion (or at least the younger generation’s notion) of what carrots can, and should, look like. But as with all points of progress (especially concerning processed foods) it wasn’t always this way.
Some would say that baby carrots are the dumb, consumer-driven spawn of the more dignified garden-variety carrot. Others, namely farmer Mike Yurosek, would say they are a genius exercise in agricultural efficiency, and a hell of a moneymaker. As the baby carrot lore goes, Yorosek got tired of seeing 400 tons of carrots a day drop down the cull shoot at his packing plant in Bakersfield, CA (the culls are those carrots that are too twisted, knobby, or plain ugly to be marketable). Sometimes more than 70 percent of his carrots were tossed, composted, or fed to livestock. In an effort to recoup some of these losses, Yurosek devised a way to take these culls, shape them and shave them into those familiar baby carrot fingers and essentially turn waste into profits (most baby carrots sell for 50 percent more than conventional carrots – it is all in the packaging).
How Baby Carrots Are Made
That was back in the 90s, and since then baby carrots have become ubiquitous and near dominant in the produce aisle (along with a requisite item alongside ranch dressing). Many purists (or those that find little use for the cynical packaging and marketing of the product), call foul and claim that these carrots are hardly baby (this is true, as they are a variety of imperator carrots that are bred to grow faster) not as healthy (there have been studies that show, while they have higher sugar levels than most carrots, baby carrots contain significantly less beta carotene) and that they are soaked in dangerous chemicals to retain their freshness (there is some truth to this, as some baby carrots are treated with chlorine as an antimicrobial measure). Still, there is no stopping the diminutive baby carrot.
But tell this to the carrot growers of America. In a push to remain relevant in today’s junk food conquered market, carrot growers (specifically the baby carrot growers) have bank rolled a $25 million dollar campaign to boost baby carrot sales and market them as, not junk food alternatives, but as junk food themselves.
Next: Baby! Carrots! Extreme!