Honey is one of the few foods that connect us to a whole natural world: the trees, the wetland flowers, and the clover. But only if we’re wise enough to find it.
A lot of honey is repacked. Many companies buy it from producers in Argentina or China, or from a shell company in Laos, to avoid tariffs. They then repack it for sale in America with pretty pictures on the labels.
Honey is routinely found to be one of the most adulterated ingredients in the American food supply; in many cases, it’s diluted with rice syrup. This systemic fraud distorts the market and is one of the reasons the 2018 American honey crop was the smallest since record-keeping began.
“People want to hear about colony collapse disorder and sexy things like that, but it’s not about that,” says Brian Fredericksen, owner of Ames Farm Honey, near Minneapolis. “It’s about consumers who really don’t know anything about honey — and then it’s about wild forage, which is decreasing every year.”
But you are a consumer who knows some things! These tips will help you find the best honey.
The best honeys generally come from identifiable beekeepers, not big corporations. “If you can’t find a phone number on your honey for a beekeeper you can call, or see pictures of their beekeeping practices on Instagram, assume it’s repacked,” warns Fredericksen. That means if there’s a honey table at your farmers’ market, head there. If there’s a sign selling local honey on the side of the road, pull over. And barring that, when you hit the grocery store, seek out honey that’s made in your state.
Raw honey contains beneficial enzymes that are killed when honey is filtered and heated. Look for honey that’s marked “raw” and has a cloudy appearance.
Single-source honeys are harder to find but worth the effort. They have the unique flavor of the flower, like dandelion or clover, that was in season when the bees were foraging. “Beekeepers blend most of their honey into one big tank,” explains Fredericksen, but single-source producers “spend a crazy amount of effort extracting honey from each hive one at a time.”
This originally appeared in “Dear Honey” in the June 2020 print issue of Experience Life.