Confused by the various names you see on honey labels in stores or online? It is not surprising. As with many other descriptions, names, and labels on a myriad of food items these days; how can you know who or what to trust? Well, in Texas when it comes to honey, there may now be an answer. The Bee's Way Honey Company as a member of the non-profit organization Real Texas Honey™ has agreed to certain processing and naming conventions for our honey, among many other criteria, to remain a member in good standing. We are happy and proud to call ourselves Real Texas Honey™ producers and do not take the honor lightly. As natural, treatment-free beekeepers we stand firmly behind the non-profit's mission of defining and identifying honey producers providing honey The Bee's Way.
Here are some of the definitions we have agreed to use to market our honey to make it easy to know exactly what you are getting when you buy honey from The Bee's Way.
Honey - A sweet substance produced by honey bees strictly from plant nectar. Nothing is added to the honey; nothing is taken away. This means that one key ingredient that must be present in real honey is pollen and small particulate beeswax
Raw - Raw honey has not been heated above 120°F. Natural enzymes and some of the benefits of honey are weakened or destroyed if honey is heated significantly. We take this a step further. We don't heat our honey at all. If it takes a bit longer for us to bottle that painfully slow pouring golden liquid; so be it.
Unfiltered – Unfiltered honey naturally contains small particles like bits of wax and pollen grains in the liquid honey. Coarse straining, which retains the nutrients and pollen, is allowed to remove the larger of these particles. Honey packers often ultra-filter their honey to extend shelf life before crystallization. This removes the pollen and many other ingredients required by the FDA needed to even be considered honey. Real Texas Honey™ will contain pollen as collected by the bees. At The Bee's Way Honey Company, we do course filter as we assume you don't want the random bee leg or wing in your honey. You can rest assured, however, that our honey has everything the bees intended to include. They know honey better than we do for certain! Our honey may crystallize over time. We are good with that too. In fact, in most cases, honey that does not crystallize is likely not true honey.
Pure - 100% Honey, with no additives, flavorings, or adulterants. Texas Agriculture Code further adds that “Pure honey” means the nectar of plants that have been transformed by, and is the natural product of, bees and that is in the comb or has been taken from the comb and is packaged in a liquid, crystallized, or granular form. Our bees say "Right on!"
Local - Local honey is produced and consumed in the same eco-region and contains the same pollens as local flowers and plants. Please see the Honey Locator found on the Real Texas Honey™ website to find local honey in your area of Texas. You don't have to buy real honey from us, but by all means, please buy it from a local producer on their website and support real honey beekeepers.
Crystallized honey – Most Texas honey will crystallize or granulate naturally over time. To restore it to its liquid state just warm it gently in hot water, but never in a microwave oven. We recommend using a double boiler and never heat the honey above 120°F. A candy thermometer is another inexpensive and handy tool. Real honey never spoils unless it ferments due to excess moisture.
Organic Honey - Real Texas Honey™ does not speak to the term Organic Honey for a valid reason in our view. Honey can be considered real regardless of being described as organic or not. We choose not to focus on the term organic as it is hard to prove, though easy to describe. In order to be truly organic in the official sense of the word, honey must have been produced from nectar sources grown in an organic way AND only use organic methods of treating pests and diseases within the hive. Since our bees are free to travel and forage where they want, we cannot claim to know the source of all the flowers they visit. And we never put anything in our hives other than bees.
What does all this mean to the consumer? Essentially - buyer beware. There is very little legislation dictating how honey is described and virtually zero enforcement from the FDA of honey when the laws are broken. Until the FDA gets serious and starts to hold various large grocery, big box and pharmacy chains accountable, never buy honey from one of those locations. They have no idea, nor will you, where that honey came from or whether it even is honey by definition. Even the Federal Government agrees that to be called honey, the product must contain pollen. Stay tuned for a future article on the "honey laundering" that takes place overseas to get illegal honey until the United States. After reading and learning about this practice, it will change where you buy your honey from now on.
Don't get us wrong. There are still places to buy honey you can trust. Various whole food co-ops and stores like Trader Joe's, for example, are safe bets. Farmer's markets and the like are usually safe, but again you need to be informed. You can pay thousands of dollars to have the honey you buy tested to ensure it is real OR you and trust the Real Texas Honey™ logo on our honey and on the honey of many other natural and real honey producers in Texas. You don't have to buy from us, but for your health, and the health of the bees, buy from sources that are members of this fantastic non-profit whose only interest is keeping it real.
Until next time, have a spoon of honey every day!
The Bee's Way Honey Company
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