Recently we had a customer reach out to us and ask whether our products were organic. It isn't an uncommon question, but it most often is accompanied by not really understanding what organic is. Are our products all-natural? Absolutely. Are they 100% pure, raw honey? Again yes, but those things don't mean it's organic.
It can be confusing when it comes to buying the right kind of honey. Organic, raw, filtered, grade A, strained, and pure are all used to describe honey by retailers; however, many consumers have begun to equate organic to mean higher quality, the real answer a little more complicated. In fact, no matter the quality in the United States, honey can't be certified organic.
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.
As of this writing (July 2022), honey cannot be certified organic by the USDA.
Any honey that boasts a "Certified Organic" tag or label sold in the United States is imported from other countries and certified Organic by that country. The imported organic honey is not certified organic by the United States.
The USDA recognizes other countries' organic certification, so in those cases, if it's good enough for the other country's government, it's good enough for the US.
A US beekeeper or company can have non-certified organic, pure honey raised organically. But it is nearly impossible to produce organic honey that can qualify for an organic label from the USDA. However, US beekeepers cannot make any organic claims for their honey. Beekeepers cannot make any organic claims unless the USDA says they can.
Does that mean the government will drop the hammer on the guy at the farmers market saying they have organic raw honey? Probably not, but those are the rules.
This has the potential of causing problems; not only does it place a seeminlgy unfair hurdle for US-based honey producers, but honey already suffers from being the third most faked food in the global market behind milk and olive oil.
What would make honey organic?
Organic honey is regular honey that has been made by the same types of bees that make the non-organic honey. The difference is how the bees are managed and where the bees are from.
Much like in traditional agriculture, there are guidelines for how the colony must be managed in order to market the honey as raw. Because the US does not have any adopted procedures for certifying honey organic, the US doesn't have any US-produced organic honey.
Generally, in order for bees to produce organic honey, they must be kept in an area free of pesticides, genetically modified crops (GMO), and the colony kept healthy without any synthetic chemicals. It doesn't mean any chemicals at all, it just means that the approved organic chemicals are used.
Our honey is pure, raw honey, but organic and raw are two different terms used to describe honey. Honey can be raw but not organic. Pure honey can also be organic but not raw. If honey is organic, it means it is supposed to come from bees that have foraged for pollen and nectar on flowers that have not been exposed to any synthetic pesticides or herbicides.
They must also be from a beekeeping operation that doesn't use synthetic pest controls on the bees, among other things. Beyond this, the honey can be treated any way the beekeepers want to prepare for the market. So the beekeeper can heat or filter the honey as desired during production before the customer receives the honey.
While we love the message of organic foods and produce, pure, raw honey is best for us when it comes to shopping for honey.
Remember, if you are buying honey in a grocery store that is certified organic, it isn't a product of the United States. Also, watch out for online retailers who claim to be selling organic honey. An educated shopper is a happy shopper, and we think you'll be happy with our honey, each and every time!