Someday someone will make a thriller about the global honey market. It's got everything: a dying species (Apis mellifera), failing supply, growing demand scheduled to pass 1.9 million metric tons by 2015, and people eager to make a buck by stretching or adulterating the goods. Mwahahahahahaha!
I posted on the topic of honey here after I watched The Vanishing of the Bees, but after seeing some of the recent news I am compelled to write again. With the US honey harvest at a record low, the temptation is great for food manufacturers to get their honey somewhere--anywhere. Journalist Andrew Schneider, who regularly reports for Food Safety News, estimates 60% of honey imported to the United States originates in Asia, "traditional laundering points for Chinese honey." What's the big deal with Chinese honey? Well, not only may it be "stretched" with additives like sugar- or corn-derived syrups, but it may also be "tainted with illegal antibiotics and heavy metals." In order to hide its origin, the honey is "ultra-filtered" to remove telltale pollen. The European Union has banned imports of honey from India to stem this tide of bad goods, leaving the wave to wash over the laxer United States.
There's no dark, twisting, thriller trail to the 136 ozs of honey in my house (we like our honey). Every last ounce comes from Daniel's Honey or Cascade Natural Honey at the Bellevue Farmers Market. In both cases I spoke with my beekeeper. I learned something about the bees' travel and pollination schedules (hint--they get around more than I do, including trips to California to pollinate the almond crop), and what makes a honey a certain "variety" like Blackberry, Wild Flower, or Knotweed. Genuine, unadulterated, local honey.
Although we're in the Market off-season, local honeys by small producers can still be found at some grocery stores. PAY THE EXTRA MONEY. If the honey is cheap or comes in a squeezable plastic bear or as a flavoring in processed goods, chances are you're getting the fake, antibiotic-laden imported stuff. Real honey is not cheap. A bee, in its lifetime, makes about 1-2 teaspoons of honey. It takes 10,000 worker bees to gather one pound of honey, and they fly the equivalent (each) of twice around the world to gather that pound. But the result is pure goodness. Not only has honey been used as a sweetener worldwide for eons, it has also been a cornerstone of ancient medicines for its health properties. Stick that in your sugar cane and smoke it!
Hope you'll join me!