Knowing where your honey comes from

Originally published July 17, 2011 by Amanda

I saw a label in a beekeeping catalogue from Mann Lake recently that I think says so much about the importance of honey. We take for granted where our food comes from.

But this label, which I will now stick to my jars, says so much in so few words. “How do you know its pure honey if you don’t know your beekeeper?”
Wow. What many people do not realize is that commercial honey can be blended from many sources. Some producers will mix it with other ingredients and you wouldn’t know the difference.
The other night Jeff and I watched a documentary called “Vanishing of the Bees”, which looked at the recent mass disappearances of bees in the United States. One of the commercial beekeepers who knew of a yard where honey was being adulterated was being interviewed. He asked to have the cameras turned off before showing pictures he’d taken of the undisclosed yard.
Fade to black and the movie returns with the cameras panning a commercial honey yard and we see barrels stamped imported from China. The honey is diluted with high fructose corn syrup or milk products, and yet is not disclosed to the public.
Our beekeeping friend Bill Parchomchuk once told us how difficult it is for B.C. honey producers to compete with the large imports coming from China, where it’s difficult to know where the honey was produced or if it was exposed to pesticides.
So for us, telling our friends and family they can trust our honey is really important.
Since we started Honey Bee Zen, I’ve been asked a number of times what’s the difference between pasteurized and unpasteurized honey. Most beekeepers don’t pasteurize.
Pasteurized honey is honey with no real nutritional benefit. It has been heated up and all the nutrients and enzymes are cooked away. It is also clear.
Unpasteurized or raw honey comes right from the hive. It is extracted from the comb and at some farmers markets you can buy it still with the comb. It has been screened to get out the bits of floating stuff (and bee’s knees, literally!)  Raw honey is cloudy and on the label it will indicate raw or unpasteurized. There’s a helpful page at that covers the issue of unpasteurized vs. pasteurized quite well.
I am going to be writing blogs on the medicinal use of honey as well as some of my favourite recipes. If you have a favourite use or recipe for honey, send me an email and I’ll make a note of it. Email me at amanda (at) honeybeezen (dot) com.

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