Is your store bought honey really honey?
What percent of store bought honey is real and what percent of other stuff is allowed to be mixed in? Which honey would you prefer a hobbyist beekeeper’s honey, which is “raw,” meaning extracted from their own hives, not pasteurized, may crystallize, and typically cost a bit more per pound, and also not forgetting tastier too; or would you prefer the store bought honey, which is almost always cheaper, Pasteurized and very rarely crystallizes?
Many in the general public who buy honey in stores have no idea where their sweet stuff comes from or what it really contains; because the label says Honey it must be honey right? After all this is America.
In my opinion, “Raw honey” is the best honey because it is not pasteurized. Pasteurizing or what I call the overheating of honey changes the chemical structure of the sugars in honey along with subtle change in flavor; this change is not found in “raw honey” because typically raw honey is extracted and bottled without Pasteurization. During Pasteurization, the high heat causes a change in flavor, not necessarily bad, as well as a loss in the amount of natural honey antioxidants. There is no set standard for what "raw" means in the honey industry, but for hobbyist beekeepers it means never heating extracted honey above natural hive temperatures which is around ninety-eight degrees Fahrenheit; the temperature at which honeybees incubate and raise brood (baby bees) in the hive.
Pasteurization on the other hand requires heating to high temperatures which chemically changes store bought honey structure forever. Between the Pasteurization and the high pressure straining of store bought honey all the bee infused enzymes, antioxidants, and allergy fighting pollen is systematically eliminated forever from Pasteurized honey; therefore what patrons end up with at the grocery store, is simply a shelf stable sweetener in a bottle with a label that says Honey; Sad! Sad! Sad! For those health conscious patrons. Store bought honey is fine for cooking and even for eating if one is satisfied with just a bottle of sweet golden substance with a label that says Honey and cost just a few dollars.
In recognition of what issues commercial beekeepers and bulk honey packers face; according to their position; their major concern is the yeasts that honey contain. In a honey bottling/packing facility these yeasts are not welcomed like the yeasts used in bread, vinegar and alcoholic beverages; because they cause unwelcomed fermentation to occur in honey effectively spoiling the entire batch. Honey is hygroscopic, which means it has the ability to absorb moisture from the air if it is left uncovered over time. During bulk harvesting of honey in large operations, many uncapped frames of honey, meaning the bees did not deem the proper moisture content attained in those frames, thus no capping, gets harvested and extracted; this extra moisture in commercial volumes of honey could allow the yeast within to begin the fermentation process.
Normally, when the bees are hydrolyzing honey (braking down the complex sugars in nectar to glucose and fructose) they also lower the moisture content to about 17 – 18 % before capping it in the hives; a low moisture content combined with the low PH of honey prevents bacteria and other harmful organisms from surviving in it which improves honey’s preservation and gives honey a small to high antibacterial property depending on the type of honey. This is the main reason why I a conscientious hobbyists beekeeper select only capped frames of honey for extraction; if my Scientist girls capped it I am certain the moisture content is correct. If honey’s moisture content goes above 20% a very high risk of fermentation results with yeast present, therefore big honey processers Pasteurize to protect their investment/livelihood, by heating to between 145ºF to as high as 160ºF for a specified duration of time. Heating of the store bought honey to these high temperatures will also cause a delay or slowing of granulation by dissolving any small sugar crystals present in raw honey. These crystals are blamed for initiating the granulation process; the heating of honey also reduces the viscosity (the resistance to flow) of honey thus making the liquid flow easier during micro filtration and automated bottling.
Yes!! The picture above is really Honey; in fact it is Award Winning Honey of 2016
I love the taste of my “raw honey,” and especially the darker variety; every time I eat some of my girls honey I remember Polyphenols, Flavonoids, and Carotenoid. I think of all the good bee enzymes and the valuable antioxidants “raw honey” contain along with the pride I feel every time I receive a prize at honey shows. This year “We”, my girls and I won Double State Champion for Best Tasting Honey in Georgia at the Georgia Beekeepers Association Honey Show; and also we took the Best of Show Ribbon along with Best Tasting Honey at the Georgia Agricultural State Fair. Citizens are becoming more food and health conscious, so I am happy to help in raising awareness of food issues related to my small part of the world which is beekeeping and honey production. “Knowledge is power” was a regular saying of my late Grandparents. To all my Honey and Bee Products Patrons I say a special thank you for your support of hobbyist beekeepers. We appreciate you looking for and buying our “Raw Honey;” you do recognize the fact that we have not lost sight of the Honeybees meaning of Honey.
Here is an interesting video I found that gives a concise perspective of honey: Raw vs Pasteurized Plus.