The Shocking Truth About US Honey
Len VanMarion is a certified Texas Master Gardener, a member of Texas Beekeepers Association, a TAIS Master Beekeeper, and a Real Texas Honey member, so he knows his facts about bees and honey.
He brings our attention to the fact that the current state of honey in the USA cannot continue. Massive amounts of honey are being imported from other countries, primarily Asian countries, at such a deeply discounted price that it renders the US honey market worthless.
Information from the US International Trade Commission shows that several countries are dumping honey into the US market. The US Department of Commerce may be able to help US beekeepers since the Trade Commission, following a unanimous vote, can now set tariffs on imported honey.
Importers can purchase honey in Vietnam for $0.63 per pound. US beekeepers can’t even afford to remove honey from hives at $0.63 per pound, according to VanMarion. If this doesn't change, US honey will be a worthless crop.
This 2:15-minute video by Texas A&M Agrilife talks about the Texas Apiary Inspection Service:
Honey can be bought at such deeply discounted prices from Asia and packaged in the US, then sold at a price that leaves US beekeepers unable to compete. This allows commercial packers to buy imported honey for less than $1 per pound, sell it to the big-name grocery stores in the US at $3 a pound and then it is sold to the public at $6 a pound.
Local laws hurt local beekeepers. Texas law, like that of many US states, lets packers label honey “local” or “Texas” honey although the honey in the bottles is from Asia, according to VanMarion. Texas law also prohibits hobby beekeepers from selling honey to commercial businesses. They can sell directly to consumers from their own property or a farmer’s market stall. Foreign competitors, by selling to large US commercial businesses, get their honey into US grocery stores.
How big is the problem? 450 million pounds per year is imported to the US. In other words, 80% of all US honey is not US honey at all. That means 80% of all honey in the US is mislabeled concerning its place of origin. Improperly labeled. People think they know what they are buying but they are not getting what they think they are buying. US beekeepers only produce 20% of the honey consumed in the US, or up to 150 million pounds of the 600 million pounds consumed annually.
This 3:45-minute video by PostHarvest Technologies talks about the big global problem of fake honey:
The only easy way to know if your honey is truly “local” is to buy it from a local beekeeper. Otherwise, the scientific way to know the true origin is to test the pollen and microscopically identify where the plant resides that produces that pollen. Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) testing is another way. Texas A&M has one of the few pollen identification specialists in the country. Food Safety News had this expert test honey samples. In the case of 75% of the imported honey, the pollen was filtered out of the honey, so it was almost impossible to determine the source.
Most US beekeepers that account for the 20% of true US honey are small hobby beekeeper producers with less than 25 hives who cannot by law sell their honey in large market stores. It stands to reason based on these facts and figures that almost all honey sold commercially in the US is mislabeled.
If you buy honey at a local national chain grocery store that is labelled “local” or “Texas” honey, it is probably imported. If you want honey for health benefits or allergic reasons, you may be getting neither.
How can this be? The honey market is largely unregulated, meaning anyone can get away with anything, according to VanMarion. The only people making money are the importers.
Buy your honey from a local beekeeper or someone you know if you want real, local or Texas honey. If you do not know a beekeeper, contact the Texas Beekeepers Association, Real Texas Honey, or a local beekeepers club. This same advice applies in any US state. Beekeeping associations are the way to go.
Len VanMarion is a speaker and is available to speak to groups. He can be reached at 409-728-0344.
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