Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Premium Honey - Honey Buying Guide

Here is the poster that I prepared to compare the honey that I harvest from my hives versus the honey that is available at supermarkets produced by the commercial beekeepers. Just to be fair, while the processes that commercial beekeepers use are common, some honey is special, some unheated, some unfiltered. Please first read the labels, then be cautious since there is no enforcement on the labels. Read more: Food Safety News: Tests Show Most Store Honey Isn't Honey.

You can take this poster as a honey buying guide and learn what to look for...

  • The natural form of the honey is comb honey; not extracted liquid honey in a bear jar. Extracted liquid honey that is available at supermarkets are:
    • Heated: In order to extract, the honey is heated up to 161 ºF, and then it is pasteurized to increase the shelf life. This process destroys yeast cells, reduces enzymes, increases HMF (hydroxymethylfurfural) level. As a result, it changes the flavors, taste, smell, color, viscosity and sugar compositions of honey. 
    • Filtered: Last but not least, the honey is filtered removing the pollen grains in order to slow down the crystallization. All honey crystallizes; some crystallizes sooner, some crystallizes after years. During crystallization, the sugar crystals build on small particles such as pollen, propolis and wax in honey. By removing these particles, the process can be slowed down in the expense of alternation of honey, loss of precious nutrients as well as the natural flavor. Read more about crystallization: Why does honey crystallize? by Brookfield Farm Bees & Honey.
  • Commercial beekeepers use medications heavily in their hives. All sorts of hard chemicals, soft chemical, and antibiotics are given to the bee hives throughout the whole year (questionably, turning them into drug junkies). Any medication given to bees will contaminates to whole hive including the comb and honey, and finally, reaches to our kitchen table. This is the biggest debate and the most important philosophical question in beekeeping community: Using medication versus treatment-free beekeeping. From beekeepers point of view, not using any chemicals may result in high losses in bee hives, but the honey that is produced is free of any contamination of chemicals.
  • Foundation is the thin layer of sheet in the middle to support to whole frame. Commercial beekeepers use plastic or beeswax foundation, which is produced by collecting beeswax from other beekeepers. The problem is that that beeswax is already contaminated with all sorts of chemicals that the previous beekeepers used. If foundation is not used, bees draw fresh foundation from scratch with the beeswax that they produce. However, in order to produce one drop of beeswax, they use 10 drops of honey. This will cause less honey production.
Comb honey produced by foundationless and treatment free beekeeping is much much less than the commercial beekeeping. But the honey is the purest natural premium honey.

My final suggestion is to:

  • Find a local beekeeper in your area.
  • Get to know the beekeeper's practices(such as using medication vs natural approach; foundation vs foundationless).
  • Buy and consume comb honey.
  • Enjoy it... 

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