What’s The Deal With Organic Honey?

EDUCATION

5 minute read

Essential Takeaways

“Raw” honey is always “pure”, but not all “pure” honey is “raw”.

When bees collect nectar from organic flowers, and no herbicides, pesticides or miticides are used around the bees, then the honey is organic by nature. But it’s not automatically certified as such.

The ways in which honey can be certified organic are contested worldwide.

It’s good to check honey suppliers’ credentials to see how their honey products might be organic.

The organic food market is projected to be worth almost $300 billion by 2027.

With people more concerned today than ever before about what they’re putting onto, and into, their bodies, it’s easy to see why.

But what about honey?  

What makes a jar of honey organic, and is it worth paying more for an organic label? And beyond this: what other labels might you find in your search for the perfect honey?

That’s what we’ll cover here.

In this guide to organic honey, you’ll learn about:

  • How honey is made
  • What honey labels mean, like pure, raw, unfiltered and organic
  • Whether organic honey is better for you
  • The labels you should be looking for

Let’s cover the basics of bees before we get into definitions.

How Do Bees Make Honey?

Bees extract nectar, a sugary liquid, from flowers. You probably already know that bit.

What you may or may not know is that they have an extra stomach called a “crop” where they store this liquid. In there, the nectar reacts with the bees’ stomach enzymes. This changes its chemical composition.

When the bees return to the hive, they regurgitate the nectar between themselves, partially digesting it and prepping it for the honeycomb.

Once it’s safely stored in the comb, bees have a backup food source to sustain them through winter. That, of course, doesn’t always happen - humans aren’t the only species that love honey!

Pure, Raw, Unfiltered, Organic: What Does It All Mean?

Like most foods, honey undergoes certain processes to get it ready to be packaged and consumed.

Some of the most common labels that crop up around honey are “raw”, “organic”, “pure”, and “unfiltered”. In New Zealand, honey labels are heavily regulated - but this isn’t always the case in other countries.

So let’s break down what exactly these words mean in relation to honey production processes, and how that impacts the honey you use in your food or wellness routine.

Pure honey

Honey is the third most faked food in the world, with companies either diluting it or replacing it altogether with ingredients like corn syrup.

If honey is pure, then nothing has been added between you and the bees.

Apart from, perhaps, a jar.

However, while the label “pure” tells you that the product is indeed 100% honey, it doesn’t tell you much else about it: what kind of plants the nectar has come from, or how it’s been harvested, for example.

“Pure” is not the best (or only) indicator of quality in the honey world.

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Raw honey

Remember how we mentioned that honey can go through a few different processes to get it ready for consumption?

These processes often include pasteurisation and filtration.

Pasteurisation involves heating the honey to rid it of any yeast content, extending its shelf life and giving it a smoother consistency. If honey is labelled “raw”, it means that it hasn’t been excessively heated, and that it has retained its naturally occurring enzymes, vitamins, and minerals.  

There are a few layers to the filtration of honey. It’s first filtered out of the honeycomb to get rid of dead bees and debris. It can be filtered again to remove air bubbles and improve its clarity. Then there’s ultrafiltration which we’ll touch on below.

Raw honey doesn’t go through any of these processes.

Our range of pure manuka honeys are all raw. Click here to find out more.

Unfiltered honey

In addition to the filtration processes above, some companies then ultrafilter the honey, which makes it even clearer and smoother.

But this has been found to reduce the good stuff in the honey, like the pollen, enzymes, and antioxidants: the things you want for maximum efficacy.

Organic honey

Finally, we get to organic honey.

Unlike the labels above, “organic” refers to processes that happen before the honeycomb is harvested and processed.

If bees collect nectar from organic flowers, and no herbicides, pesticides or miticides were used around the bees, then the honey is organic by nature (but not necessarily certified as such).

Bees often travel up to two miles (around three kilometers) for their nectar, so in order to be certified as organic, suppliers have to prove that plants within this radius are organically grown.

Organic honey isn’t necessarily raw, pure, or unfiltered. If you want these qualities as well, you’ll need to look for all of them on the labels.

By looking for the “organic” label alongside those mentioned above, you can trust that you’re getting natural honey, in its purest form.

However, not having a certified organic label doesn’t necessarily mean that the honey isn’t organic. It simply might not have been labelled as such, due to the challenges with proving that all plants within a two mile radius of the hives are organic.

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Is Organic Honey Better For You?

Studies have found some rather unsettling evidence around consuming honey contaminated by pesticides:

“Pesticide residues cause genetic mutations and cellular degradation and presence of antibiotics might increase resistant human or animal pathogens. Many cases of infant botulisms have been attributed to contaminated honey.”

But how honey is certified organic, and whether it’s actually better for you, is still a contentious debate.

In the honey world, an organic certification can only ever be part of a much larger picture. So it’s best to trace the origins of a honey product as well as its certifications as far as possible:

“Ingestion of honey without knowing its source and safety might be problematic. Honey should be labeled to explore its origin, composition, and clear statement that it is free from contaminants.”

For example, you can find all of our credentials right here. Our products are certified as non-GMO, glyphosate pesticide free, UMF™ accredited, halal and kosher approved and more.

There are, however, some other things you can look for on a honey label besides an organic certification that will help ensure its quality.

What Labels You Should Look For on Honey Jars

If you’re looking for information about organic honey, chances are that you intend to use it for health and wellbeing purposes.

If that’s the case, then with its superior unique properties and skincare benefits, the first type of honey you should be looking for is certified manuka honey.

Manuka honey potency is measured by its Unique Manuka Factor rating (UMF™). The higher the UMF™, the more potentially beneficial compounds are present in the honey.

Learn more: How Much UMF™ Is Enough? 

UMF™ certified manuka honey has been rigorously independently tested, and is produced, packaged and labelled in New Zealand - where regulations around honey are the toughest in the world.

The next label you should be looking for is “raw”.

This indicates, as we’ve seen above, that the honey is pure, hasn’t been ultrafiltered or exposed to excessive heat. It doesn’t contain any additives, and it hasn’t been through any processes that could compromise or dilute its potential health benefits.  

Our Manuka Honey is Raw and Independently Tested

All of our manuka honeys are raw and independently tested for quality.

You can trace exactly where our honey has come from and test results for every batch by scanning the QR code on every jar.

Shop here to explore our full range of UMF™ 5+ up to UMF™ 26+ premium manuka honeys.

More Honey Articles and Recipes

Are you keen to learn more about manuka honey and how to use it?

Head over to our blog to read about how manuka honey can improve your immunity, vitality and beauty rituals. We’re constantly sharing new insights and guides.

Your wellness journey starts with a spoonful a day.

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FDA Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.