By: Linda Naeve, Iowa State University Extension
Revised, June, 2015
Carrots are a member of the Apiaceae (formerly called Unbelliferae) family, which also includes celery, anise, dill, and cilantro. They are a biennial crop, producing their taproot the first year, and, if left to grow, would flower, set seed and die the second year. Although most all the carrots marketed in the United States today are orange, other colors such as red, yellow, or purple can occasionally be found in various fresh, frozen, and juice products.
Carrots are primarily consumed fresh and are the 7th most consumed fresh vegetable in the U.S. Consumption of fresh carrots peaked in 1997 at 14.1 pounds per person and since then has dropped off and settled into a stable amount of approximately 8.5 pounds per person in 2014 (Vegetable and Melon Outlook, 2015). In contrast, consumption of frozen carrots averaged .7 pounds per person.
Carrots are very high in beta carotene, and also contain Vitamin C, Vitamin K, potassium, other vitamins and minerals, and dietary fiber. In this century, carrots have become a popular cooking vegetable, salad item, snack food, and raw vegetable.
The upsurge in carrot popularity came after 1986 with the introduction of "baby-cut" carrots, which are packaged petite carrots made by chopping down and polishing much larger versions of the vegetable. "Baby carrots" are actually very young carrots that are harvested while the vegetables are still quite tiny. Baby-cut carrot products have been the fastest growing segment of the carrot industry since the early 1990s and are among the most popular produce items in the supermarket aisle.
Approximately 9.2 percent of the carrot supply produced was exported in 2013. Imports totaled 355.7 million pounds.
Carrots, a cool-season crop that is always direct seeded. Roots attain optimal color when the air temperature is 60º to 70ºF (18º to 21ºC). Although carrots are available throughout the year, locally grown carrots are in season in the summer and fall when they are the freshest and most flavorful. Carrots were grown on 72, 400 acres in 2013. (USDA, National Ag Statistics Service, 2014). Carrots are grown in and shipped year-round from California, with four main production regions. California produces over 85 percent of all carrots grown in the United States. Michigan, and Texas are other important carrot-producing states. Average yield per acre between 2011 and 2013 was approximately 320 pounds. Major carrot imports come from Canada and Mexico.
Prices received for fresh carrots are typically higher than prices received for carrots for processing. The 2013 season average U.S. price for fresh carrots was $28.50 per cwt, up seven percent over the previous two years and 26 percent higher than ten years ago. The current, on-going drought in California is likely to have a major impact on the state’s production with potential implications on U.S. supplies and prices now and in the future.
Based on most recent production and price averages, the estimated gross value for fresh market carrot production is $6,400 per acre. The costs of carrot production vary depending the production location and the level of mechanization.
National Retail Report: Fruits and Vegetables: Weekly Advertised Prices for Fruits and Vegetables at Major Retail Supermarket Outlets http://www.ams.usda.gov/mnreports/fvwretail.pdf
Factors Affecting Carrot Consumption in the United States (2007) http://www.ers.usda.gov/media/198875/vgs31901_1_.pdf