Baby Carrots - When Is A Carrot Not A Carrot?
The Truth About Baby Carrots
North Americans love baby carrots. Even more than regular, ordinary carrots. We love them because they are a fresh, ready-to-eat vegetable packaged in a convenient format. A wonderful snack food! We put them on party plates, in our kids lunches and in airline snacks. We carry them to soccer games and we grab them when we are on the run. Americans gladly pay more for products that are ready-to-go.
First, let me say that I am not a nutritionist or a scientist or anything of the sort. I am just a Mom and a consumer who is somewhat concerned about what she puts in her and her family's bodies.
Second, what started me searching for information about baby carrots was an e-mail that arrived in my inbox that claimed to be from a farmer who grows and packages carrots for leading retailers in Canada. Of course, there was no source listed on this e-mail. It was pretty anonymous.
What followed was a search for information, the results of which I have gathered here on this page to share with you.
What Are Baby Carrots? - In North America, baby carrots are either:
- Miniature carrots that are harvested before they are fully developed, sometimes as a result of crop thinning and sometimes as a specialty crop. They can also be a carrot grown to the 'baby stage,' or
- Full grown carrots that are cut to make them smaller and uniformly shaped.
Your Baby Carrots May Not Be Baby Carrots At All!
This means that some baby carrots are not actually babies at all! They are full-grown carrots that have been cut down into two-inch sections. Those may be the ones we need to be careful of. Read on...
"I was shocked when I first discovered that (they were cut to shape)," says Jeanne Ambrose, Food and Entertainment Editor of Better Homes and Gardens. "I'd wondered how they got them all so perfectly matched to grow all the same shape and size."
I have to say that I did not actually think about it. I just ate them when they were offered, occasionally buying them for special occasions or for an easy, nutritious snack. I assumed that they were a good, nutritious choice for my family.
Did you know that some baby carrots are not actually baby carrots?
The history of the baby carrot.
Californian farmer Mike Yurosek is widely credited with creating the baby carrot. As a farmer and, I expect, as a businessman, he was unhappy with the fact that he had to throw out up to 800 tons of carrots a day because they were not 'perfect.' They might have had a bad spot or imperfections like being twisted, knobby, bent or broken and they were considered useless. The consumer would not buy these 'inferior' products so sometimes 70 percent of his carrot crop was tossed out.
He used an industrial green bean cutter to cut his carrots into two and then put them through an industrial potato peeler to create the first baby carrot, which became known as "Bunny-Luv."
With the development of the baby carrot, carrots were reborn and became a 'premium' food. Baby carrots cost considerably more than regular carrots and children gobbled them up!
Today, Bolthouse Farms and Grimmway Farms are the world's largest growers, processors and shippers of baby carrots. Even my favorite brand of frozen vegetable, Green Giant, resells carrots from Bolthouse Farms.
Why Did They Decide To Make Baby Carrots?
Well, of course Farmer Yurosek was trying to reduce waste but, over the years, some people even came to believe that these baby carrots were better in terms of texture, nutrition and/or taste and of course there is the consumer's quest for convenience but perhaps the most important reason for making baby carrots may be that a product is made from an item that previously was thrown out and then sold for at least double the value of regular carrots.
What About The Taste and Nutrition of Baby Carrots?
Remember that I am not a nutritionist, I am writing what I have gleaned from doing some research. I have read that carrots are one of the best ways for the body to get vitamin A. Our bodies change the beta carotene that is in carrots into vitamin A and apparently Americans receive 30 percent of their vitamin A from carrots.
Modern carrots have been bred to be sweeter because that is part of their appeal as a snack and they are also bred to be longer and narrower as size and shape is important if you are cutting them into baby carrots! (They can get three baby carrots out of one large carrot now instead of two as was the case originally.) Carrots are bred for uniform color because, of course, if you are cutting them into baby carrots, you don't want to have a lot of color variation.
All of this has lead to baby carrots that are nice - crisp and sweet - but without much flavor - not much carrot taste or smell.
Baby carrots are not as nutritious as whole carrots. They are grown fast and ripened quickly and have about 70 percent of the beta carotene of a regular carrot. Plus, much of the nutritional value of the carrot is in the skin and just below that area. This part is peeled away in the process of making a baby carrot.
The Creation of Baby Carrots...
Just exactly how are baby carrots made? Watch the step-by-step production process...it appears pretty much the same today as when Farmer Mike created the first baby carrot.
How Are Baby Carrots Made?
The video does a very nice job of illustrating how baby carrots are made. However, it is a pretty 'clean' video and if you were to believe it you would think that the carrots were always nice and clean but there is at least one important step missing. Often, when baby carrots are being made, they are rinsed or soaked in chlorinated water.
Here is the Most Important Thing, in my mind:
Some baby carrots are washed or dipped in a CHLORINE SOLUTION to prevent whiteness on the outside of the carrot. The same chlorine that you might find in a backyard pool and chlorine is a carcinogen.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Fresh-Cut Vegetables
According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the use of chlorine as an antimicrobial treatement is a currently accepted practice in the processing for all fresh-cut, ready-to-eat vegetables. (Section 4.4.) You will have your own opinion, of course, on what is acceptable and what is not acceptable to you and we know that often things are approved by the government and later declared bad for us.
Maybe. Dole's website claims that baby carrots are sweeter and more tender than full-grown carrots. They state that their carrots are small because they are either grown closer together or harvested earlier than big carrots.
Dole also says that if you notice a white coating on the baby carrots that just means that they are dehydrated and that you should put them in water to rehydrate them.
Others say that the white which appears on the carrots in your fridge is the chlorine coming out. Fact or fiction?
Be A Scientist And Debunk This Baby Carrot Myth At Home
Another site I read stated that the whiteness is actually caused by dehydration. They say that you can take any carrot and cut it in half, leave it in your fridge and it too will have the same white appearance once it has dried a bit. Of course, baby carrots get more white on them because the entire carrot is cut surface!
If you were hoping that there was a magical solution to eating baby carrots, there just may be.
To determine whether small carrots are 'real' baby carrots read the packaging. Labels on bags of very young carrots will say 'baby carrots.' Labels on bags of carrots made by chopping them down are called 'baby-cut carrots.'
Use this as your guide and you can go on eating baby carrots without worrying about chlorine...
More Baby Carrots Reading For You
- Snopes.com: Baby Carrots
Are baby carrots made from deformed full-sized carrots that have been soaked in chlorine?
- USATODAY.com - Digging The Baby Carrot
Baby carrots have overtaken the nation like a healthful tsunami, an orange tide that is sliding into grocery carts, pooling on dinner plates and lapping into minivans full of snack-hungry kids.
- The World's Healthiest Foods
Great page packed with information including the nutritional value of carrots.
Are You Going To Continue Eating Baby Carrots?
Baby Carrot Trivia
Baby carrots represent approximately one third of the sales of fresh carrots.
1960 -- Americans ate 6 pounds of carrots a year.
2008 -- Americans eat 10.5 pounds of carrots a year.
"If you get ambushed by a snack attack between meals or at social functions, bring along or request a nutritious snack like baby carrots or celery with peanut butter. The snack will help you feel satisfied and curb your desire to continue snacking."
-- Amy Grant on Healthy Holiday Eating
Baby Carrot Controversy
Well, back to what set off the creation of this page. The e-mail I received said that baby carrots are dipped in a solution of water and chlorine and that chlorine is a known carcinogen.
In my mind, it seems like a simple choice to go back to enjoying 'real' carrots -- either regular sized ones or ones that have been harvested while babies. Then I will know that there is no chance they have been dipped in chlorine, I will know they are healthier and my pocket book will know that they cost less.
I would love to hear from you about what you think of the Baby Carrot Controversy.
An appropriate ending, don't you think for a page about carrots? Thank you for visiting this page and thank you to the Flickr.com photographers for allowing me to use their photos on this page.