Organic Honey

About Organic Honey
Can honey really be organic?  Organic beekeeping is actually a very complex business. Below are my tips for purchasing honey generally – including local honey and organic, but first, I think it’s worth going into a little background information.

Organic Beekeeping and Organic Honey

The reality is, that regulations and standards may vary by country, as well as the way in which these standards are monitored.

In the UK for example, standards are extremely strict, making it virtually impossible for the majority of beekeepers to produce certified organic honey from their beehives if at all.

You can read more about this on my page Organic Beekeeping (opens a new window).

Sadly, sometimes, people buying organic honey in the UK, may actually be purchasing imported honey.

In reality:

  • Bees fly to find suitable sources of nectar and pollen. Placing bees on organic farms does not necessarily mean the honey produced could be certified as organic honey. This is because there may be possible sources of contamination nearby, from roads and motorways, town centres and so on, which may be within flying and foraging distance for the honey bees!

  • If the intention is to sell organic honey to retailers, then remember the honey will need to be produced in significant volumes.

    In practice, this means that for larger scale organic beekeepers, they must find not only a suitable location, but one which can support a number of bee hives, and that is rich in suitable flora, to provide all the nectar and pollen needed by the bees. Given the restrictions imposed for organic beekeeping, this is not always easy.

  • Not all beekeepers can afford certification.

That said, many smaller scale beekeepers and individual beekeepers, follow organic beekeeping principles as closely as they can, without certification for producing organic honey, but as a minimum, they will usually seek to:

Avoid using chemicals in the hive, such as veterinary medicines and pesticides. Instead, they’ll ensure to maintain the bees in optimum health, resorting to natural treatments and methods in dealing with any problems.

They will keep their bees in wooden hives made from untreated timber (these days it is possible to purchase bee hives made from polystyrene and plastic).

Although they cannot guarantee the bees will not come into contact with pollutants, organic beekeepers will generally do what they can, keeping the bees on organic allotments, in organic gardens or farms, for example.

It is usual among organic beekeepers that honey bees are able to eat their own honey during the winter months. (Note, there is no requirement on commercial non-organic producers to ensure the bees get their own honey, and they may instead be fed sugar, and all the honey bees' stores may be removed).

Some General Thoughts On Buying Honey

Before we go any further, and into my tips for buying organic honey versus other honeys, here are my views about the sale of honey generally:

1. Honey takes considerable effort to produce, especially where the bees are concerned – you can read more on this page: How Do Bees Make Honey? Beekeepers themselves may go to considerable effort and expense in bringing honey to the table. Yet sadly, with mass consumerism and the rise of the big supermarket, many of us have lost touch with nature, and how food is produced. Big Supermarkets compete on price and many people want bargains – cheap food, but there is a price to be paid somewhere along the line.

We’ve seen shocking standards in so-called honey production, one of the biggest scandals in some countries has quite simply been when what was sold as honey, is hardly honey at all – instead, it is a concoction of honey and corn syrup. As I said, there’s a price to be paid for ‘cheap’ somewhere.

It’s just my view, but I think honey should NEVER be treated as a cheap commodity. Honey is precious, and if man is going to harvest it, it should be valued as such, viewed as a treat, appropriately priced, and the standards should be maintained to a very high level, both in the standard and purity of the honey itself, and the treatment of the wonderful honey bees that make it.

2. Honey bees produce honey as winter stores they can eat, when they are unable to forage, or there is little suitable forage material available to them. You can read more on the page: Why Do Bees Make Honey?

Therefore, beekeepers need to be mindful of this, by not being greedy, and only taking some of the honey if any, leaving behind what the bees need for themselves. Yet not all beekeepers do this.

Author and beekeeping guru, Paul Peacock writes in his book, Keeping Bees:

“A careful beekeeper will not take more than the colony can easily afford to miss”.

Next page – tips for buying organic honey and local honey vs honey from the high street supermarket

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