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Honey Horrors
January 8, 2009 10:51 AM   Subscribe

Want to learn more about the sordid world of international honey production and distribution? The Seattle Post-Intelligencer tells... well, not all, but enough. The first story is my favorite, but there is something to alarm everyone.
posted by GenjiandProust (34 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well, the bees are dying off anyway - so the problem will take care of itself.
posted by Joe Beese at 10:54 AM on January 8, 2009


Little old British men in funny suits go out to their gardens and pet the bees and politely request them to fill a bottle...AND I DON'T WANT TO HEAR ANY DIFFERENT.
posted by DU at 10:55 AM on January 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Honey Laundering is a good stripper name. So's Honey Smuggler.
posted by steef at 11:01 AM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you like honey, buy local. It tastes better and is better for you.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:03 AM on January 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Well, the bees are dying off anyway - so the problem will take care of itself.
posted by Joe Beese


Eponyst... nah.

Colony Collapse Disorder is still mysterious, but the pitch of concern has dropped (at least in the news I happen to see). The local honey seller is still offering a variety of honeys (orange blossom, clover alfalfa, and some others), all unfiltered local stuff that's helped minimize my seasonal allergies.

Unfiltered honey is murkier than the typical store-bought transparent stuff. Here's more info on honey processing.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:06 AM on January 8, 2009


The local honey seller is still offering a variety of honeys (orange blossom, clover alfalfa, and some others)

What used to be my local honey source told me that his bees have been more adversely affected by the pesticides used by agribusinesses on adjacent mega-farm lands, and that the problem has been getting worse. The bees fly through those lands and some don't come back. Support organic farming!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:13 AM on January 8, 2009


It is a good idea to buy honey local if you use it. Often it tastes better, is better for the local economy, and I it is supposed to help with local allergies.
posted by dios at 11:23 AM on January 8, 2009


Some beeguy keeps his hives in pasture owned by my parents and pays his rent in tubs of honey, which my mom always tries to push on us whenever we visit.

God, I hate honey.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:26 AM on January 8, 2009


Alvy, how do you use honey? A lot of people just think of it as something for a biscuit or some bread or maybe a drop in some tea. But honey can be an incredibly versatile condiment in cooking in making glazes or marinades or if you are doing some grilling or bbq. I cook using a lot of southwestern flavors, and it is extremely effective in mixing with the heat of spices to offer a touch of sweetness. But yeah, when honey is alone as the featured ingredient/condiment, it would get old fast.
posted by dios at 11:42 AM on January 8, 2009


Alvy, how do you use honey?

I don't, dios. I don't.

If I had the time and the inclination to do more baking, I'd probably get over my 'Ew, bee puke!' hang-up and try it as a sugar substitute. But still, bee puke, ew!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:47 AM on January 8, 2009


Once you try local honey, you won't go back.

Beekeepers, in my experience, are probably the most genial of all farming professions. There's something in the make up of a beekeeper's personality that makes them enjoyable to talk to, laid back, and clever.

I suppose that's the way you have to be to avoid getting stung in the eyeballs, but I've yet to meet a beekeeper I didn't like.
posted by unixrat at 11:48 AM on January 8, 2009


The Seattle Post-Intelligencer got very upset about the use of salt in de-icing roads a whikle back. Then we had some heavy snowfall, and some problems with roads that didn;t get cleared, and now the Seattle Post-Intelligencer is very upset about the lack of use of salt in de-icing roads.
posted by Artw at 11:56 AM on January 8, 2009


Bees?!? BEADS?!?!?
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:00 PM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


For me, flowers are the rainbow of a covenant of peaceful and prosperous coexistence between plants and animals (before flowers, plants were pretty much just trying to poison us, as I understand it), and honey is the beauty of flowers experienced through the senses of taste and smell.

A sacrament, in other words.
posted by jamjam at 12:00 PM on January 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sounds like a sticky situation to me...
posted by JoeXIII007 at 12:00 PM on January 8, 2009


Smuggler
Of phoney honey
Underground candy king
America's most wanted bear
Money!
Ah sugar Pooh-bah
Underground candy king
America's most wanted bear
I just can't believe the sweet little racket you've got
(It tastes just like honey but it's not)
I just can't believe the way you shake your honey-pot
(Or should I say high-fructose money-pot?)
Ah Smuggler
Of phoney honey
Underground candy king
America's most wanted bear
Money!
Ah sugar Pooh-bah
Underground candy king
America's most wanted bear
When I crossed you, Pooh, I knew how sweet a kiss could be
(I know how sweet a kiss can be)
You said, "I know it was you, Eeyore. You broke my heart," then threw me to the Killer Bees
(Oh how your anger stings to me)
Smuggler, pour some for your homies
Pour a little shot for Owl
(Shot down in an act so fowl)
Pour a little drop for Roo
And for Christopher Robbin, too
And a jigger for Tigger
Oh, how could you pull that trigger, Pooh?
And what did poor Heffalump
Ever do to you?
Ah, Smuggler
Of phoney honey
Underground candy king
America's most wanted bear
Money!
Ah sugar Pooh-bah
Underground candy king
America's most wanted bear
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:02 PM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Aw, man I miss the honeybees we had growing up. We had as many as five hives going at a time, and every September mom would go out in full regalia to harvest. She'd take about half from each hive then bring it inside to process. She'd give us kids a jar of honey comb to chew on, and we'd have honey sandwiches for lunch until spring.

Eventually she had to give it up, because some parasite kept killing off the hives. I don't remember if we figured out what it was. We'd just see fewer and fewer bees, then open the hive and find all these strange larvae about, and no bees.

If my husband weren't deathly afraid of the things, and Younger Boy allergic, I'd have a few hives myself.

I get "raw" honey from the health nut stores, but it's not the same. Good on pretzels, though.
posted by lysdexic at 12:02 PM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I suppose that's the way you have to be to avoid getting stung in the eyeballs, but I've yet to meet a beekeeper I didn't like.

My great uncle, who at 90 still mentors several younger apiarists after keeping bees himself for 60 years, said that bees sense agitation. He said that he would never go to the hives angry or there would be trouble. Who knows if there's a lick of "scientific" truth to it, but it's interesting.
posted by mrmojoflying at 12:04 PM on January 8, 2009


Buy local honey. Honey is just about the last agricultural product for which there are no shortcuts and no substitutions. We've got the Langstroth hive and a couple medications for foulbrood and mites, but otherwise the process of producing honey is the same as it's been since the beginning of history. Your local beekeeper is emotionally invested in the honey he or she produces, spending months carefully tending to the bees, monitoring the bloom of trees and flowers and supplementing the bees' diet where necessary. The very last thing a small-time beekeeper is going to do is adulterate the honey in any way--beekeepers don't feed the bees or put any medication in the hive when the honey supers are on.

The Chinese, on the other hand, notice only that people pay a lot of money for honey, so they send barrels of sugary antibiotic water through South America.
posted by Nahum Tate at 12:43 PM on January 8, 2009


Joe Beese wrote: Well, the bees are dying off anyway - so the problem will take care of itself.

According to the article titled Honey Laundering, dying U.S. bee colonies are creating higher demand for imported honey--this is the cause of the problem, not the solution.
posted by millions at 12:47 PM on January 8, 2009


Ahhh--I forgot the most important reason to buy local honey. It tastes like heaven. You will forever view grocery store honey as the Bud Light of honey, bland and inoffensive.
posted by Nahum Tate at 1:07 PM on January 8, 2009


Too much honey, Alvy? Try making mead.
posted by No Robots at 1:17 PM on January 8, 2009


This all makes me want to get into beekeeping. This, and the delightful, ambrosial, piece of honeycomb that came with my cheese plate at the restaurant last night. Maybe, just maybe. Neighbors would probably kill me though.
posted by medeine at 1:20 PM on January 8, 2009


My great uncle, who at 90 still mentors several younger apiarists after keeping bees himself for 60 years, said that bees sense agitation. He said that he would never go to the hives angry or there would be trouble. Who knows if there's a lick of "scientific" truth to it, but it's interesting.
posted by mrmojoflying at 12:04 PM on January 8 [+] [!]


My 93 Y/O father swears that beekeepers live longer and never get Arthritis.
???
posted by Jumpin Jack Flash at 1:24 PM on January 8, 2009


Too quick with the post button....

My dad is neither a beekeeper and has Arthritis. ???
posted by Jumpin Jack Flash at 1:26 PM on January 8, 2009


OK, the honey with the comb in it - what are you supposed to do with the comb? Eat it? My kids love it but I don't get the appeal of having cold wax in your honey.
posted by GuyZero at 1:37 PM on January 8, 2009


OK, the honey with the comb in it - what are you supposed to do with the comb? Eat it? My kids love it but I don't get the appeal of having cold wax in your honey.

Nah, just chew and spit it out. Like gum. Or raw sugarcane. We had a neighbor with a wild cane field. Summers were heaven.
posted by lysdexic at 2:22 PM on January 8, 2009


I like me my local honey, too. Go bees! (I felt good after glancing at a bottle at Wal-Mart that listed multiple countries as the producer...yuck.)
posted by Atreides at 3:46 PM on January 8, 2009


Maybe it's time to resurrect the absolutely fascinating series of diaries on Kurohin.

All you wanted to know, and more, about the art of beekeeping.
posted by Arthur Dent at 3:59 PM on January 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Easy solution:
Find a local farmer's market. Buy your honey there. Get as much other food as you can there too.
posted by alexwoods at 9:41 PM on January 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


I love honey. I go out of my way to try and make sure I'm buying local (to Japan) as most of the cheap stuff here is awful Chinese stuff. I think regulations in Japan regarding labeling and "organic" are tougher than in the US, which I'm glad about.
posted by gen at 10:23 PM on January 8, 2009


Beekeepers, in my experience, are probably the most genial of all farming professions. There's something in the make up of a beekeeper's personality that makes them enjoyable to talk to, laid back, and clever.

Your local beekeeper is emotionally invested in the honey he or she produces, spending months carefully tending to the bees, monitoring the bloom of trees and flowers and supplementing the bees' diet where necessary. The very last thing a small-time beekeeper is going to do is adulterate the honey in any way...

That's certainly true of the beekeeper down the road here where I winter in VT, Todd Hardie, a thoughtful and genuinely kind guy. Hardie laments that most of the honey sold in the U.S. (even the non-smuggled varieties) — unlike the raw honey he sells — is nutritionally worthless.

Todd's the main subject of a documentary film, Health & the Hive: A Beekeeper's Journey, released last year by another thoughtful local who lives down the road, Jan Cannon.
posted by LeLiLo at 11:20 PM on January 8, 2009


Oh bother.
posted by rusty at 8:45 AM on January 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Maybe it's time to resurrect the absolutely fascinating series of diaries on Kurohin.

Yeah, thanks so much Arthur Dent, I just wasted so much time reading about beekeeping, and day dreaming about making my own honey.

This story is really worth the whole saga though.
posted by GhostChe at 9:04 AM on January 9, 2009


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