Have you ever wondered, what does organic honey actually mean?? It's not a plant that can be sprayed with pesticides. It's not grown in soil with artificial fertilizers. Is conventional honey from bees treated with antibiotics?? I started to wonder, how different can the organic honey be from the non-organic golden goo? Is this just another case of the big bad marketing man trying to fool us innocent consumers?
(Note: I know, I know, it's not vegan. But as I've mentioned before on my blog, I occasionally use local raw organic honey as a sweetener [and facial moisturizer], rather than highly processed, albeit vegan agave syrup from abroad).
Thankfully here in Canada there are quite a few rules being enforced by organic honey certifiers that make organic honey quite different than conventional. Here's what I found out about organic honey standards in Canada:
[Caution: before reading further, only truly organic nerds will find this stuff interesting ...]
- Origin of bees - All bees must come from organic sources.
- Sources of nectar - Sources of nectar and pollen must be mainly from organic plants.
- Location of bee hives - There must be a buffer zone of at least 3000 meters from plants treated with non-organic substances.
- Food - Organic honey must be the main food for adult bees.
- Humane treatment of bees - Adequate honey and pollen must be left in the hive for the colony to survive after the honey is harvested, clipping of the Queen Bee's wings is forbidden, bee smokers cannot contain synthetic materials, destruction of hives after harvest of honey is forbidden, lead-based paints are forbidden.
- Pest Management - Antibiotic drugs are forbidden and only non-synthetic (certifier approved) substances can be used to control pests, parasites and diseases.
- Extraction of Honey - Beekeepers cannot extract honey from a comb with a live brood inside.
- Cleaning - Only organically approved cleaning products can be used.
I definitely feel better buying organic honey after researching all this, and I never would have imagined there are so many guidelines regarding humane treatment. No wonder so many bees have gone missing in the past few years!
Remember that like organic food, organic honey also has a lengthy (and costly) transition period. So if your favourite stall at the farmer's market isn't selling honey with the Canada Organic logo on it, it could be that they are following most of these same rules but are awaiting certification or simply cannot afford it. Talk to them and see how they produce, collect and jar their honey.