Sugar beets are a root crop that grow best in temperate climates typically planted in the spring and harvested in the fall. At maturity, sugar beets can grow to around one foot long and weigh two to five pounds and contains 20% sugar, 75% water, 5% pulp.
In the United States 10,000 family farmers across 11 states harvest sugar beets on 1.1 million acres of land. Sugar beets are processed at 21 farmer-owned factories. The sugar is extracted by shredding the beets and boiling out the sweet juice, purifying and granulating it. Each year American sugar beet farmers produce roughly 4.5 million tons of sugar. There are over 60 different types of sugar provide to the market and packaged in a variety of sizes from teaspoon packets to 220,000-pound rail cars. Sugar is all natural and only contains 15 calories per teaspoon.
Sugar is not the only product made from beets, it also provides important bi-products. These include beet pulp and molasses used as feed supplements for livestock, poultry, and aquaculture, non-corrosive road deicer, pharmaceuticals, and baker’s yeast.
The U.S. produces about 33 million tons of sugar beets, that equates to a stack of beets from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial that is 250 feet high!