Dearest Umbra,

I’m curious how they make those mystical little carrots that are just the right size for snacking. Are baby carrots actually harvested that small, or are they carved out of bigger carrots? If they’re carved out of bigger carrots, where do all the shavings go? Bottom line: Am I supporting a wasteful production process when I buy baby-cut carrots or is my green consciousness just a tad bit hyperactive?

Tyler
Washington, D.C.

Dearest Tyler,

Baby carrots have veritably jumped off the shelves in recent years. You hardly see people eating normal carrots any longer. It’s too much work, really, to cut carrots yourself. Who has the time? And who has the energy to chew an adult carrot? So exhausting.

You’ve come a long way,
baby carrots.
Photo: USDA.

Baby carrots originally were a way to make use of culls — slightly damaged carrots that didn’t meet the wacked standards of modern consumers. So the wee ones actually prevented carrot waste, and still do — although now fields are also planted and harvested specifically for the cutie pies. Fascinating machines nip, tuck, and shape regular carrots to achieve the petite, attractive carrotettes you so love. There is waste, I’m sure, similar to what you would produce if you yourself peeled and sliced adult carrots (should you have the time). Farming involves quite a bit of waste already, though. Any maimed, blemished, or split carrots are likely left in the fields or on the packing shed floor. We can only hope that giant baby carrot producers are composting their waste.

It would be more cost effective for you to buy your own carrots, but I think the environmental concerns lie in a tangential issue. When you buy precut and shaped baby carrots, you are contributing to a market trend for snack foods of all types. Marketers see the two-bite carrot bonanza as part of the rising demand for completely effortless foods. That “demand” leads to over-packaging and over-processing of normal foods, which is wasteful, annoying, depressing, and weird.

Yours in vitamin A,
Umbra