How Are Baby Carrots Made?

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Today I Found Out

Unless you do all your shopping online or someone else does your shopping for you, you've seen those little bags of baby carrots at the store. They cost a little more, but they're portable and make a solid to-go snack. But how are baby carrots made? Everyone knows they don't pop out of the ground shaped like elongated rabbit poop, so the Today I Found Out YouTube channel tackled the question in a new video. 

Those bagged babies aren't true baby carrots, which are the tiny carrots that still have their green stem and look like Bugs Bunny would get down with them. The baby carrots -- often called baby cut carrots -- we're talking about come in little bags and are tiny, smooth, and cylindrical. They aren't made from tiny carrots but are manufactured to get that familiar, unified look.

These carrots hit supermarkets for the first time in 1989Mike Yurosek, a carrot farmer, surmised there must be a better way to deal with his daily carrot cull, which was the leftover heap of broken and misshapen carrots that grocery stores wouldn't accept. He created baby cut carrots from the cull using a potato peeler and green bean slicer. Then he tested his creation on Vons, a large west coast grocery chain, and the next day the store told him, "We only want those." Prior to that, grocery stores only wanted the best-looking carrots, resulting in oddly shaped ones going to waste. At that time, as little as 30% of a given carrot crop found its way into stores.

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The process has changed since Yurosek's first experiments with miniaturizing carrots.

Carrots are now planted close together, forcing them to grow long and thin, which is preferable for carrots slated to become baby cut carrots. They're harvested and brought to a processing facility where they're cleaned, de-stemmed, sorted, and cut into two-inch sections. They're then peeled and rounded before finding their way into a bag.

Everyone loves the snacktastic baby veg, but there is waste involved in the production process. The leftover shavings and ends are converted into cattle feed or compost. However, there's a lot less waste involved than in the before time, when carrots were chucked because shoppers thought they weren't pretty enough to be turned into excrement. (This still happens at the supermarket and is one reason Anthony Bourdain is trying to get people to eat ugly produce.) Around 70% of all carrots sold today are manufactured baby carrots.

While you might have assumed they were manufactured in some fashion, too few recognize how the invention of baby carrots completely changed how we grow and consume carrots. It not only curbed waste but more than doubled the number of carrots the average household consumes, according to the Washington Post.

Long live baby carrots. Or, long live baby carrots until we get to work and eat them.

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Dustin Nelson is a News Writer with Thrillist. He holds a Guinness World Record but has never met the fingernail lady. Follow him @dlukenelson.