Organic Honey vs. Raw vs. Pure- What is it?
Like many items in the store these days, sorting through the labels, certifications and similar is the hardest part of being a consumer. After all it isn't your fault, as company's have teams of marketing and statistics to base each word on every label, and which words and labels are most likely to get you to buy their product.
I'm sure you've seen organic honey sitting on the grocery shelf, and maybe you've wondered, what is the difference with organic honey? First off, organic labeled food of any kind in the United States, according to the USDA, whom is tasked with certifying organic food, states-
"USDA certified organic foods are grown and processed according to federal guidelines addressing, among many factors, soil quality, animal raising practices, pest and weed control, and use of additives. Organic producers rely on natural substances and physical, mechanical, or biologically based farming methods to the fullest extent possible."
Now the USDA has zero....... yes zero, standards in classifying organic honey and doesn't even have a process to certify any honey organic. However to make for an export product, the USDA allows producers to meet other countries standards in producing an organic product, which means that the lowest bar counts as organic, at least until the US has standards in place.
So, that organic honey on the shelf may have an organic label, but it doesn't necessarily mean its at a level to be considered actually organic, because there is no standards in the United States. Because of this, most of , if not all of the "organic" honey on the shelves comes from other countries. Some of the better companies advertising organic honey, import from places like brazil, which has beekeepers located in areas where there is little to no human agriculture allowing for the bees to forage within their forage range of 5 miles, to be free from non organic compounds on the trees and plants that the bees collect nectar from to make into honey.
Without getting into the massive problems with imported honey and its impacts on US beekeepers trying to make a living, which you can read on adulterated honey. Organic honey is almost entirely imported and will likely not include any local pollen or nectar. So, organic honey is likely imported or is likely gathered from plants that do not meet the organic standards laid out by the USDA for other organically labeled foods. Hopefully the USDA will provide some standards in the future so all honey producers and packers are playing on the same level field. As of today (08/16/2021) those standards simply do not exist.
Honey that is raw, is about as close to honey in the hive as it gets. The reason for the designation as raw honey is that it has not been pasteurized, heated, and or filtered. Therefore raw honey has the ability to form into crystallized honey.
When extracting raw honey, the frames from in the hive are taken and spun in a honey spinner which whips the honey out of the frames. This honey is then directly bottled into the bottle, jar, or similar found on the grocery shelf. There are very few steps from hive to your cupboard with raw honey. Raw honey also has health benefits that other more processed honeys do not, such as enzymes, antioxidants, as well as antibacterial properties that are all lost in other processed pure honeys.
In order for honey to be considered raw, the honey can only be strained to prevent larger pieces like wax from getting into the jars, and not heated above a certain temperature and duration, which is often 104ºF.
Raw honey can also crystallize, which is not a sign of bad or expired honey, as honey lasts for all practical purposes..... forever. Decrystallizing honey is simple, let the honey sit in moderately warm water and it will reliquify.
For more information on the benefits of raw honey, check out our latest article on it.
Pure honey is often the marketing and label term for processed honey. As almost all honey is and should be pure honey as nothing is added unless its flavored honey, like a hot honey or similar. If the "pure" honey is processed it typically means the honey has been heated well above 104ºF, which losses most of the benefits of raw honey. This is done by honey producers and packers, to help speed up bottling and prevent the honey from being able to crystallize. In essence, the honey is turned into a substance chemically closer to syrup at this point. So if the label doesn't include the word "raw", it's almost guaranteed to be highly processed.
The other part that can take place with processing, is the pure honey is run through a filtering system so the product is clear. This often removes all of the pollen, which consumers often want left in their honey, but through crafty marketing language labeled pure honey, the pollen is left out.
What's the Best Type of Honey?
Well you can imagine the best type of honey an article post on a website promoting raw honey is going say is best. But, Raw Honey actually is the best and provides all the benefits consumers traditionally think goes with buying local honey.
When buying raw honey, you will get they best experience buying single source or small batch honey, as it adds a flavor often missing from large packers that blend all of their honey. Why do they blend all of their honey? Many packers get honey all over the world or country, and each location has a very unique flavor. By blending all of the honey, the packer gets a consistent flavor in all of their bottles sold in stores all over the country and or world.
If you are looking to try single source/ small batch honey from a local small business, try one of the honeys below and compare it to the cheaper honey in the store. There is a difference, but buyer beware, you may never buy honey from the grocery store again.