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Comparing Commercial and Locally Produced Raw Honey

Oregon Honeycomb from Beekeeping

Did you know that by definition approximately 75 percent of store-bought commercial honey is not honey at all? As defined by the FDA, all authentic honey contains pollen. To most of us that would seem pretty normal, I think; however, most of the commercially available honey contains very little or no pollen at all.

Traditionally, honey is heated and filtered so it will remain liquid longer. In an effort to keep honey’s natural crystallization from occurring, most commercial honey is heated and pasteurized, eliminating its fragrance and changing the chemical composition of the honey itself. At these high temperatures, the honey is then ultra-filtered. Ultra filtering is a high-tech procedure whereby honey is heated, sometimes watered down with corn syrup or other sweet, non-honey products and then forced at high pressure through extremely small filters to remove pollen, which is the only foolproof sign identifying the source of the honey. It is a spin-off of a technique refined by the Chinese, who have dumped tons of their honey on the U.S. market for years. The pollen is removed to prevent tracing where the honey came from.

It’s during the process of pasteurization that much of the nutritional content of raw honey is destroyed. Powerful antioxidants, enzymes, and vitamins are destroyed when heat is applied to raw honey. Raw honey is anti-viral, anti-fungal and antibacterial in nature, but the same cannot be said about most commercial honey because of the heating process that is applied. Frankly, it's probably akin to sitting down and eating from a bag of refined sugar if you’re using store-bought commercial honey.

Backyard Beekeeping in Oregon

‘My Honey Has Crystallized. Has it Gone Bad?’

No, honey virtually never spoils. Archaeologists have found honey in ancient Egyptian tombs that was still edible. Bacteria cannot grow in real honey. It's high acidity and tiny amounts of naturally occurring hydrogen peroxide prevent bacteria from growing. Therefore raw honey never spoils. Don’t put your honey in the refrigerator if you don't want it to crystallize. Cold temperatures speed the crystallization of honey; however, you can gently heat it in a sauce pan of water to liquefy it and still maintain its healthful qualities. Most honey will crystallize eventually and many people prefer it that way. Spoon it into tea where it melts quickly or spread it on toast.

Raw honey contains all of the nutrients needed for good health, including vitamins A, C, D, E, certain amino acids and high concentrations of B-complex vitamins. It also contains beneficial enzymes and one of these enzymes is amylase which aids in digestion of breads and other starchy foods. Raw honey’s antioxidant and anti-bacterial properties can also help improve the digestive system, yet these are the very things the high heat and filtering of process destroy.

Beware of Toxic Chemicals in Honey

And finally, you should be aware that purchasing raw honey does not mean it is free of chemicals. The title "Raw" can be misleading. Though I am sure there are rare exceptions, commercial honey and even some you are told is locally raised, comes from hives treated with insecticides to fight the Varroa mite. These insecticides, called “miticides,” leave behind residues in both the wax and in the honey. Though deemed safe, do you really want an insecticide in your honey, or for that matter corn syrup? The honey I strive to produce comes from hives that are never treated with commercial miticides. I lose a few more hives to mites this way, but I prefer that over the production of honey containing miticides. Our raw honey is never heated or filtered. It is pure and raw, direct from the hive and contains all the natural nutrients, antioxidants, enzymes, amino acids and pollen of real, unadulterated honey.

When looking for a source of raw honey you should search out a local bee keeper and inquire about his or her practices. Find out if they use commercial miticides or if their honey is heated and filtered. Producing natural, raw honey takes more time and manpower. It’s made by hand. You can buy cheaper honey, but it is often honey in name only.

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