Organic and Non-organic Honey Are There Any Differences

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Have you ever seen bee honey labeled as being ‘organic?’ If the bees are gathering nectar and pollen 'free range' in nature, how can the product be assured ‘organic?’

Raw or Natural Honey

The very best and most healthful bees honey is comb honey; honey that is cut right from the waxy comb and packaged raw. This is non-processed. Natural honey without the honeycomb is also non-processed. It is warmed just enough to cause it to melt and flow from the honeycomb. Often, a centrifuge device is used to ‘spin’ the raw honey free of the comb where it flows into a collection vessel.

Non-processed honey (in the honeycomb and in bottles or jars) contains live yeast, natural enzymes, and because it is screened and not filtered, it can also contain pollen. Real honey will often crystallize in the jar because the small pollen and naturally-occurring crystals are a nucleus around which crystal lattice may form. If you have ever made home-grown crystals at home you understand that in order to create a crystal you need a ‘seed’ around which a larger crystal may form. Non-processed honey is ‘organic’ in that it contains all the natural enzymes and yeasts, as nature intended. Arguably, natural honey is the best and healthiest for you. Whether or not it is truly ‘organic’ is conjectural.

Liquid Honey

Honey in jars labeled as ‘liquid honey’ have been heated to 1600 F in order to melt the crystals. In addition, liquid honey is filtered to remove any foreign material such as pollen, unmelted crystal or foreign matter (dirt, wax, dead bee or lost bodily extremedies such as a leg or wing, etc.) This heating unfortunately kills most or all of the natural yeast and enzymes in the product. Heated honey has a slightly different taste as well, sometimes described as having a sharper or or having a more bitey edge. It could be safe to say that ‘liquid honey’ is not really ‘organic’ in that it is altered by processing methods from the more ‘natural’ state.

Creamy or Spreadable Honey (Whipped)

Creamed honey is a firm product, having a consistency similar to thick warm butter. The honey is first warmed as in the liquid honey method to cause it to flow. The non-organic creamed is warmed to around 1300 F (which kills the enzymes and yeasts) while the organic creamed is warmed to only 1130 F, preserving the natural qualities.

Both these are filtered to remove any crystals and pollen as in the liquid honey method, but a small amount of previously-creamed honey is added later in order to induce crystallization. The honey now having a ready source of nuclei around which to form natural crystals of honey, form and created a firm product. Degrees of firmness depend upon factors such as moisture content and product storage temperature.

The conditions of what makes ‘organic honey’ are regulated standards that both the beekeeper and processor/packager and shippers must adhere. These includes such factors as the bees’ foraging range, the extracting process used (not too much heat, no chemicals used, etc.) processing temperature, bee management (no pesticides used near the bees or their forage area,) the screening/micro-filtering processes prior to packaging, no co-mingling of ‘organic’ and ‘non-organic’ such as packaging equipment and other factors.

Organic honey may be at best a chimera between mostly-organic and the questionable unknown insomuch as it is virtually impossible for a beekeeper to know for sure where the bees have been. They cannot be certain that their bees have not been sipping nectar from fields that have pesticides used on them, or extracting nectar from the flowers of genetically-modified crops.

bees drinking honey from a small bowl

(image source)

Even if 98%+ of the hives' worker bees dedicated to organic honey production are culling pollen and nectar from surrounding clover fields of known pesticide-free provenance, some enterprising bees may be flying miles farther and bringing back (for brevity) ‘non-organic ingredients’ for the sweet communal potpourri.

Still, ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ honey as it is understood is probably better than the generic tabletop variety that is mass-produced to be overly-pasteurized and micro-filtered processed for color, clarity and pourable qualities; reduced to little more than just another liquid sweetener for your cup of tea.

And for that matter, “Grade-A” means virtually nothing in the quality of honey. It is just a pat-on-the-back stamp of approval label that the manufacturers give themselves. ‘Grade A’ honey might be a blend of various honeys from various producers (local and abroad) amalgamated together for color, flavor, cost and convenience, with quality unknown. It is honey, regardless of which how many collective colonies of bees produced it but blending it with other strains does not necessarily improve it. If anything, it may weaken it as far as healthful benefits goes against local allergens. I am more impressed if the honey is stated to be of local/regional provenance. At least you are receiving some local antibodies against local pollens and allergens. This can be important for anyone that suffers from seasonal hay fever symptoms. Honey is an excellent health food item no matter how you look at it. Just don’t be too quick to assume that all honeys are created or processed equal.

3 comments

Ruby
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Posted on Mar 7, 2010
thestickman
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Posted on Mar 6, 2010
Johnny Dod
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Posted on Mar 6, 2010