From meat lovers to staunch vegans, many people find common ground when it comes to enjoying honey. Natural honey and its products are used in many different ways. Honey makes food tastier, treats common ailments, and is used in the production of numerous consumer products. It would be difficult to imagine our world without honey.
The unfortunate reality is that beekeeping has turned into a profit-maximizing endeavor. Bees are often overworked and subjected to poor conditions, thus affecting the overall quality of honey and future colonies. Ethical practices in beekeeping and honey production have become critical to bee conservation goals- thus resulting in the term “ethical honey.”
Why should you pay attention to where your honey comes from?
You may be wondering why you should pay attention to honey production in the same way you might scrutinize “MSC certified” labels. There are many issues with commercial beekeeping. Indeed, the focus has gradually shifted from keeping bee colonies healthy to maximizing returns. This growing pattern translates into bees being placed in larger hives where they have to work harder than they can sustain. Large hives are harder to fill with honey, and the bees end up struggling during winter. Furthermore, farmers often fill hives with high fructose corn syrup or sugar water when they extract too much honey from the hive. Both options are insufficient in the nutrients that bees need to remain healthy.
Bees are also often shipped from farm to farm so they can pollinate local plants. Frequent traveling exerts pressure and stress on the bee colonies, not to mention that the bees end up carrying pesticides from one farm to another. And finally, many commercial beekeepers clip the wings of queen bees and minimize their ability to swarm. The result is fewer colonies in the area and lower biodiversity among the population.
The solution: ethical honey
Making honey ethically produced can be challenging. The current demand for honey is much higher than what can be supplied at any given time. However, there are steps you can take to establish an ethical practice in your honey purchases. Some of these steps include:
- Purchase your honey from local beekeepers who you know, can question, and can trust
- Purchase your honey from local farmer’s markets
- Look out for honey brands that are associated with smaller, family-run farms
- Purchase your honey online from sites that meet ethical standards in the production process. For example, honey brands that are organic, unfiltered, and biodynamic are more likely to have been obtained from an ethical farm.
Understanding ethical practices in beekeeping
While ethical honey may go against profit maximization, the benefits of keeping our bee populations healthy cannot be overstated. This is why you should seek out beekeepers who engage in ethical production activities for the good of these important animals.
Here are some questions that you can ask beekeepers to ensure that your honey is ethical.
- How do you treat your bees during the reproductive process? (queens should be allowed to brood naturally)
- Do you allow your bees to build their own hives?
- How diverse are the plants in your farm?
- Do you allow your bees to swarm?