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Author Topic: Misleading Honey Flavor Labels  (Read 1720 times)
NWIN Beekeeper
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« on: January 14, 2008, 05:38:27 PM »

Beekeeping is a 'craft' because of the manipulations we perform to get the results we do.

As an example, we pull honey off the hives when they return from specific floral sources to get a specific variety of honey. This variety contains a flavor that unique to the plants (or combination of plants) that the nectar is from.
This provides customers with a truly unique varietal flavor of our product and gives us additional market shares (multiple jars of honey on the home shelf because of the different flavors).

So: "Would it be ethical to sell honey as a specific variety when it is known that variety is not a chief component, and maybe at best scarcely contains any of the named variety? "

Honey
We recognize that honey is called honey because it contains cured nectars mixed with enzymes and minerals. Sugar syrup contains just sweetness (sugar) and not much micro nutrition. So beekeepers in good faith do not feed when production supers are on to avoid extracting straight sugar syrup.  Otherwise this is no different that adding syrup to 'dope' your finished product.

Flavor
A club that I had belonged to has many buckets of 'bad tasting' honey from off a soybean field.  The best adjectives that I can find to describe flavor are "oily" and "like plastic".  Now I'm not asking anyone to reply saying they have bees on soybeans and the honey is fine - good for you, these buckets are terrible.

The club sells honey at the local fair. While they should get their sale supplies from 'club hives' that the members have paid for but the president supervises and kills half each winter, (sorry I got off topic) instead they buy honey from select members and other out of state sources and label it as local (which in itself drives me crazy).  Local I suppose can be construed as a 'relative' term.   

The 'oldest smoker' beekeeper in the club took it upon himself to put on a dog-and-pony show and ask members to taste the 'bad honey' once it was mixed with another batch of unknown source. 

1.  Members were asked to look at a name card, and think about what they expected the named honey to taste like before trying it.
2. Members were asked to look at a second name card, and again think about what they expected the flavor to be.

Then members were asked which of the two did they like better. When the crappy soybean honey was marked "apple blossom" most people chose it, despite both samples being the same crappy soybean doped with another source.

The next comment was, "Fine, next year we will sell 'apple blossom' honey at the fair. You guys must find ways to market your honey because regardless of taste,  you aren't going to throw out $90 in honey."

This being the same club that doesn't respect pulling honey for specific color classes at the fair either - just extract and sort by color after the fact.

Besides being blatantly dishonest to the public, it's a disrespect to the craft (those that care and do it correctly). There has to be a dozen historic beekeepers that are rolling in their graves as people perform acts like these. Beekeepers used to (and maybe still do) take great pride in producing varietal honeys. I think the club's actions are shameful, and I want no part of it.

I think we have responsibility to the customer to provide them with a true product, especially if they are new. 
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reinbeau
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« Reply #1 on: January 14, 2008, 05:57:44 PM »

Wow, that's got to be one of the most unethical attitudes I've ever heard of in beekeeping.  Those members should be ashamed of themselves!  shocked
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Dick Allen
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« Reply #2 on: January 14, 2008, 06:09:56 PM »

Well, unfortunately, it happens a lot. Here in Alaska a lot of honey is sold as fireweed honey. As is sometimes said more of it is sold than is actually produced.  One of the local grocery chains has a specialized food section where, among their specialized foods are some 'varietal honeys'. They also sell 'regular' honey in their jam, jelly, syrup section. The 'varietal honeys' cost more. Some of them are orange, blackberry, maple, and of course fireweed. They all look alike except for the name of the honey type on the label. The honey colors  are identical. I bought a bottle of their 'fireweed honey' once  to satisfy my curiosity. It tasted just like any of the other commercial store bought honey. But, I paid more for the jar of 'fireweed honey'.
« Last Edit: January 14, 2008, 10:50:56 PM by Dick Allen » Logged
PDCambs
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« Reply #3 on: January 14, 2008, 06:22:21 PM »

If this was done in the UK and our Trading Standards authority found out, the association/club in question, and its officers, would be in very hot water. Mislabelling is a legal offence.

I've seen associations do things that arguably compromise their own ethical standards, which is an issue for their membership to redress (although all to often they do not) but I have never personally seen one flagrantly break the law (individuals might, without their associations knowledge of course).

I would initially suggest the foul honey is saved and used as a winter feed. Failing that do clubs in the USA have committees, rules and regular meetings? I would think this an issue that, if unresolved, should be raised at their AGM (annual general meeting) by tabling a members question if necessary.



Kind regards

Peter
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Dane Bramage
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« Reply #4 on: January 14, 2008, 08:49:43 PM »

So: "Would it be ethical to sell honey as a specific variety when it is known that variety is not a chief component, and maybe at best scarcely contains any of the named variety? "

I think we have responsibility to the customer to provide them with a true product, especially if they are new. 

I would say it is unethical.   I agree & would add, responsibility is a personal choice.   There are all sorts of things some beekeepers may do with which I would not agree but I would not seek to impose my views upon them.  Nor do I feel maligned by their actions.  On the contrary, activities such as those proposed by your bee club give others a chance to distinguish themselves. 

If the club does not reflect your values let them know.  If your protests "fall on deaf ears", don't support them.  If it really upsets you, expose them in your community to the very customers to whom they would fraudulently market.   Perhaps compete with them in the market.  Show them up by example.  cool

I just did another in-store tasting/product-demo yesterday and brought the three varieties of honeys I obtained from my one apiary location.  Each is labeled with the specific month of harvest and only one (July) is a specific variety (= Blackberry) as the others are a broader blend (=wildflower).  I have every one taste and compare each variety (they all taste completely different) and I have jars of the corresponding pollen collections as well.  The pollen collections serve as another visual aid in demonstrating the differing nectar sources.  Many people truly appreciate that varietal distinction and it's fun to hear folk's taste impressions and deciding which is their favorite.  Not only did I get a lot of support "where it counts" (sales) but it was very heartening to have people share their appreciation for my techniques & efforts.

Best of luck to you!

Cheers,
Dane
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rdy-b
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« Reply #5 on: January 14, 2008, 09:08:24 PM »

kinda ruff on the soybean arnt you most pepole think it is of very high quality and taste -RDY-B
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rdy-b
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« Reply #6 on: January 14, 2008, 09:16:07 PM »

those pepole you are clubing with -say -soybean how do you know it is soy bean-maybe it is just convenent for them to say so-tell them to add the word wild to it  grin and say thats why it tastes that way becaues it is wild soybean -RDY-B
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Sir Stungalot
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« Reply #7 on: January 14, 2008, 09:34:05 PM »

God, that is just shamefull.  Selling "Apple Blossom" honey simply because it sounds good....jeeze. This is the kind of biz that mean old (70 +)men tend to do.  Purchasing this or that and claiming it is "home-grown"  or "local".   They always think they are so crafty...really pulling one over on the customer. I DETEST that mentality.

I do not think it is THAT hard to be honest. My honey is simply labled "East Texas wild flower" because...drum roll please....thats what it is! Local means MINE!!!!!!! I live LOCAL.  Frankly, if you do not produce it yourself, I do not think one should even be allowed to say LOCAL.

That bunch of old club members should be tarred and feathered.
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rdy-b
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« Reply #8 on: January 14, 2008, 09:42:51 PM »

yep you got the key word in there ---My honey is simply labled "East Texas wild flower" ----RDY-B
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BeeHopper
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« Reply #9 on: January 14, 2008, 10:08:14 PM »

NWIN,

Why do I get the feeling from this thread and from another on a completely different subject, that you used to hang out with some pretty bad Beeks or is it you have a certain disdain for Old-timers.  huh  I'm no expert in labeling or categorizing the honey I collect from my hives because I do not completely understand the floral sources of my area, therefore I label it "Wildflower", it may not be perfect, BUT, it's close enough. I can guarantee my honey is local and unadulterated. I would also label it "Pure" or  "Raw". If my honey tastes bad ( by the way, it is subjective ) it would probably end up back in the hives as feed. You do bring up a good point, however, I have yet to come across a dis-honest Beek.  grin
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Cindi
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« Reply #10 on: January 14, 2008, 11:42:07 PM »

Yep, tarred and feathered.  Have a great day.  Cindi
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indypartridge
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« Reply #11 on: January 15, 2008, 07:14:02 AM »

I'm thinking I might have to drive up to your corner of the State and buy you a couple of cold beers as a goodwill gesture to show you that not all Indiana beeks are unethical jerkwads.
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BMAC
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« Reply #12 on: January 15, 2008, 07:29:32 AM »

kinda ruff on the soybean arnt you most pepole think it is of very high quality and taste -RDY-B

Is it possible the same people that want to lie and misguide the local folks out there could also have somehow contaminated that batch of honey while extracting it giving it an oily/plastic like taste? 

Maybe they didnt clean all their equipment correctly.  Sometimes making beer you get that plastic taste.  It comes from wild strains of yeast fermenting. 

Is it also possible some club officer took some lightly fermented honey and blended it with more honey to dillute the plastic flavor and just kept their mouth shut about it???

Food for thought anyway.
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NWIN Beekeeper
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« Reply #13 on: January 15, 2008, 09:49:44 AM »

Thanks for all the replies to this topic.

You have all hit all the nails on their head.

Dane's post is excellent! He explains exactly what I mean:
        [Many people truly appreciate that varietal distinction and it's fun to hear folk's taste impressions
          and deciding which is their favorite.]

RDY- [...kinda ruff on the soybean arnt you...]
      I don't have a dislike for soybean, this was just the variety I was told it was, but you can see given
      the source, the truth of variety is up for debate.  Different varieties of plants can give off entirely
      different nectar flavors too, it might be an odd soybean variety too.

Dick Allen
     [As is sometimes said more of it is sold than is actually produced.]
     And this is a point I was hoping would come to light in this discussion.  I don't think any of us find it
     fair to mislabel to fill a varietal niche in a slow or lacking year. It does a disservice to those that are
     crafty enough to follow a flow or even find a flow in the first place.

BeeHoper
     [...you used to hang out with some pretty bad Beeks or is it you have a certain disdain for Old-timers.]
     I have a lot of respect for old-time beekeepers. 
     American beekeeping would not be what it is without them.
     I mean the likes of AI Root and Charles Dadant and such.
     But my local senior crowd is a different batch of people.
     They are feeling a struggle to make money, without much new investment.
     Bee packages are getting more expensive, hive pests tougher to resolve, and this is a toll on them.
     When you get close to down and out that is when you get desperate.
     And that is part of my point of this post, morals.
     All beekeepers come to a crossroad where they have to make moral judgments.
     When we get to that point, we don't want to pose them to a group and face the heat.
     So we might not ask, and we might do what we never though we would.
     My idea is that I see a bad situation, I thought you guys might benefit from discussing it.
     Perhaps you will set your morals deeper in stone so that you never are on such a slippery slope.

The replies like:
reinbeau - "Those members should be ashamed of themselves!"
Sir Stungalot - "God, that is just shamefull."
indypartridge - "..not all Indiana beeks are unethical jerkwads."

.... Are all proof that you guys (gals) are an ethical group and care deeply about the things you and the public image that you create for the beekeeping community.

For what it is worth, I appreciate it and I am sure your fellow beekeepers also appreciate it.

Many of you are concerned that perhaps my opinion against this is being voiced or heard.
Don't worry too much, the actions mentioned above are of only a few people, but the masses understand.
While we can not force a member to re-label their product (no matter how wrong we know it to be), we as a group see how shallow these actions are and that coheres the group in a more moral group.

This topic (and others) about being in an area with poor beekeeping practices and weak mentoring is not a cry for sympathy. Despite these conditions I have become a good beekeeper (and I'm always trying to improve). And anyone, anyone with any drive can do it too. So I hope it is seen as words of encouragement.  If nothing else, you should hopefully be able to say I am a good person because I am not doing -> (add bad beekeeping topic here) <- .   

Again thanks for your replies... keep them coming if you have more, I'll add more comments later.

PS - Bad honey flavors can come from processing. Bacteria as BMAC added can introduce new awkward flavors that can not be removed. Heating can burn pollen and cause honey to turn dark - not to say all dark honey is burnt though! Honey gets it flavor from pollen and the alcohols in the nectar sources.  If  honey has burnt pollen, the alcohols that gave it taste were burned off long ago, leaving only sugars.  Overheated and tasteless honeys are often classified as "Bakery Honey" as they are used not for a specific flavor, but rather more for sweetness and any residual honey flavor. Also be careful to use clean food grade plastics, some plastics can introduce 'foreign tastes' to honey. The old product in a used bucket can also introduce tastes, sometimes despite really good cleaning.
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Paraplegic Racehorse
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« Reply #14 on: January 15, 2008, 11:03:37 AM »

I wonder what happens to that club when somebody decides they don't like their "Apple Blossom" honey and decides to do more than just toss it out? Like, say, send it to a lab for testing. We Americans live in a highly litigious society AND we also have truth in labeling laws...

NWIN, you may wish to point this out to your local dishonest beekeepers.
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« Reply #15 on: January 15, 2008, 11:30:37 AM »

Food sources and their integrity have the HIGHEST priority. We put it in our bodies! If a beek lies about variety, than illegal chems are next. Once a consumer gets burned, particularly w/ food, they may never come back as a customer for anyone, ever.a Ask spinach growers. I would start to get new beeks to join club and have a bloodlesss coup. The reason local raw honey can get a premium price is because allegedly we put more care and fewer chems into our product. If thats not true, than we might as well sell store brought honey. They are doing a disservice to all beeks everywhere. Next will be regulations because of these people. More rules, more costs and we will suffer collectively.
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