Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Long Lane Honey Bee Farm honey
When you see that green USDA sticker that says "organic" on honey, do you believe it? Why wouldn't you? If something has been labeled organic that must mean it's been inspected, by certain standards, by someone who is well versed in organic foods.

It also must mean the hives have been tended to without the use of antibiotics or other medicines or other artificial feeds.

Or does it?

Actually, in the US, the standards for labeling honey organic seems to be ambiguous at best. And just like health inspections, different states may have different standards.   Our organic farmer friends have told us stories of how hard it is to make their farm land organic for vegetables and fruits and what a struggle it is to get that label. In fact, the best natural farmers we know have completely foregone trying to get that label because it is so impossible. If it this hard to get farm land labeled organic, how much harder it must be to label honey organic when the bees can fly anywhere to gather nectar that is beyond the beekeeper's control?

Joel Salatin writes in his book "Everything I Ever Wanted to Do is Illegal" that he doesn't consider himself "organic", but calls himself "beyond organic".  The reason for this is because the organic label isn't good enough for him, and doesn't agree with the standards as set forth by the government to call it that.

The green USDA organic sticker on honey can be pretty meaningless.  One "standard" says that the hive boxes can only be painted with latex and if plastic foundation is used, must be coated with an organic beeswax.  Easy enough for someone to simply say "yes it is" and for there to be no real way of checking this for compliance. Hives must be kept 4 miles from any farm fields where chemicals are used, but it would only take a nearby neighbor one time to spray his apple trees, or for the lady down the road to throw a pesticide on her tomatoes to null and void this. There are very few areas in the industrialized US where bees would not be subjected to pollutants or chemicals. Since bees can fly anywhere, and we can not follow them, the "organic" label is only a relative guess at best. 
Organic honey can also be heated and processed, all things that you don't want to happen to your honey.  Once honey is heated, we lose the beneficial enzymes, antioxidants, minerals and nutrients that it has.
Pure, Raw honey without the organic labeling, comes from a beekeeper who has chosen to take the honey directly from the hive and bottle it, with minimal filtering. There is no heating or processing involved before it gets into the bottle. Choosing raw honey from a local beekeeper also means you are shopping local which contributes to supporting your own community, keeps beekeepers in business and has greater benefits to the environment--not to mention you should buy only local honey if you are using it to help with allergies. 

So which is the best to choose? Organic or raw? We know that store honey is not a good option because it can have added water and is almost always heated to high temperatures so it does not crystallize.  Check the labels and you will see that it more often than not comes from other countries.

Organic is fine, but the green USDA sticker does NOT mean you are getting better honey than raw straight from a beekeeper. But, in order to get the best raw honey, you need to know your beekeeper.  Find out how he or she keeps bees: Do they use natural means of disease and pest control? Does he or she heat the honey for easier bottling? Does he or she use GMO corn syrup or some other type of questionable feed in the hive?

 Do your own research on this subject so you can pick the best honey from the best beekeeper for your family. 

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