Every beekeeper in America is going to tell you to get your honey from a local beekeeper. A "natural" beekeeper will tell you to buy honey that is not treated (i.e, bees are not dosed with antibiotics and no chemicals are used in the hive) or heated. There are many good reasons for doing following this advice. Here are a few:
- If you have allergies, pollen in the honey may help.
- Untreated honey will not contain antibiotics and it should have fewer undesirable chemicals.
- Raw honey contains all the enzymes, propolis, etc. that give honey its superpowers.
- It supports the livelihood of someone in your community.
- You'll know your honey is the real deal and not some kind of Frankensyrup (more on this in a minute).
If I haven't misremembered, I think the U.S. imports about 60% of its honey. A lot of this honey comes from China via laundered sources in order to avoid paying taxes and tariffs. Why do I have a problem with it?
- Typically, this laundered honey is a lot cheaper than domestically-produced honey, and buying it undercuts our own honey industry.
- This laundered honey also goes through a heating/straining process to remove the beneficial pollen. Processing decreases the nutritional value of the honey. And without pollen, the honey's source is disguised, increasing the ease with which it can be laundered.
- This cheap honey is adulterated with sugar syrups, corn syrups, dyes, flavorings, etc. It has also been known to contain illegal animal antibiotics, which promote bacterial resistance and can be harmful to people.
A number of honey companies and importers are calling attention to the problem of illegally sourced honey. Their initiative, True Source Honey, LLC, "seeks to help maintain the reputation of honey as a high-quality, highly valued food and further sustain the U.S. honey sector."
One neat little feature on the True Source Honey homepage is a program for checking whether your store-bought honey comes from a certified source. If you purchased your honey from someone other than a local beek, all you have to do is click the link and enter your honey's UPC code. Pretty cool! (But if you can, I still say buy raw, untreated honey from a local beekeeper! Even better, get some bees!)