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  1. #1
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    Default Honey labeling requirements... good enough?

    I've recently read a 500 post thread that was sort of on this subject, though it was based on an article that many found inflammatory and unfair. As a consequence, little light was shed on the subject.

    But it did get me to thinking about the subject, which may or may not have been a good thing.

    Here's my premise: beekeeping is a kind of farming, and in this country, farming is in trouble, especially the kind of small scale farming that used to be the backbone of the country's agricultural production. For many years, the mantra in farming was Get Big or Get Out. And most small farmers did get out. The industry (and I use that word regretfully) is now dominated by by large-scale farming.

    However, it seems to me that beekeeping is a form of agriculture that is poorly suited to large-scale implementation. Unfortunately, the marketing system seems to favor large-scale honey packers over beekeepers. The FDA's labeling requirements make it fairly easy for inexpensive imported honey to depress the prices that American beekeepers get for their product. Because of these lax requirement, it seems more difficult than it should be for beekeepers to market their product as superior to commodity imported honey.

    To go back to the small farm analogy, any small farmer these days who tries to compete with agribusiness by raising commodity crops like corn and soybeans is on the road to bankruptcy. He just can't do it; he doesn't have the economies of scale, the capitalization, and the subsidies that make these crops so profitable for agribusiness. The only small farmers these days who seem to be prospering are those who have found ways to market their products as unique and in some way superior to commodity products. Think, for example, of organic farmers, or those who market specialty vegetable to restaurants, or who raise grass-fed beef... and so on.

    It sure seems to me that the FDA could do more to help American beekeepers by requiring retail labels to show place of origin, degree of filtration, purity, etc., and devoting resources to enforcing these requirements.

    I'm not even a beekeeper, so maybe I should sit down and shut up. But it must be pretty difficult for many smaller commercial beekeepers to make a living from honey production alone, competing head-to-head with cheap imported honey. I really like honey; I've discovered that honey varietals are every bit as interesting as wine varietals. Would it not be a good thing if local beekeepers could market their honey as special, as a product of their unique setting... rather than shipping barrels of honey at commodity prices to honey packers. (And I know that they can market locally, selling in local co-ops and farmer's markets and so forth) But that isn't a reasonable approach for a national market.

    In France, many vintners make a very good living from very small vineyards, in part because the French authorities ferociously control the labeling of the product. We seem to be at the other end of the spectrum when it comes to labeling honey.

    Anyway, sorry about writing a book, and my apologies in advance for any stupid stuff I've said.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Honey labeling requirements... good enough?

    I for one don’t intend to compete with commodity priced honey. A smart entrepreneur could set up a national marketing system for honey, as have many small-scale breweries. Boston lager is the first to come to mind. Look at Starbucks who ever thought selling gourmet coffee in the US could be a multi million-dollar business; they don’t compete with Maxwell House. I think free trade agreements with China and other countries are the reason for cheep-imported honey not labeling.
    Im really not that serious

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Honey labeling requirements... good enough?

    >>>To go back to the small farm analogy, any small farmer these days who tries to compete with agribusiness by raising commodity crops like corn and soybeans is on the road to bankruptcy. He just can't do it; he doesn't have the economies of scale, the capitalization,<<<

    its has been that way right from the start,
    everything is relative

    >>>nyway, sorry about writing a book, and my apologies in advance for any stupid stuff I've said.<<<

    non sense, if you want to see stupid, refer back to the last thread.
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Honey labeling requirements... good enough?

    so tell me rhaldridge,
    if 500 or so small beekeepers got together and collectively pooled resources and to sell their product, do you still believe that the industries "marketing system still favor large-scale honey packers over beekeepers"?
    in other words, shouldn't market meet the demand?
    Last edited by Ian; 02-22-2013 at 12:21 PM. Reason: grammer
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  5. #5

    Default Re: Honey labeling requirements... good enough?

    Quote Originally Posted by mac View Post
    A smart entrepreneur could set up a national marketing system for honey
    Are you familiar with the Savannah Bee Company?
    http://www.savannahbee.com/cgi-bin/c...i?display=home
    Dan www.boogerhillbee.com
    Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Honey labeling requirements... good enough?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian View Post

    >>>nyway, sorry about writing a book, and my apologies in advance for any stupid stuff I've said.<<<

    non sense, if you want to see stupid, refer back to the last thread.
    Oh my, now that's funny. Thanks for the chuckle Ian.
    Mark Berninghausen "That which works, persists."

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Honey labeling requirements... good enough?

    Quote Originally Posted by beemandan View Post
    Are you familiar with the Savannah Bee Company?
    http://www.savannahbee.com/cgi-bin/c...i?display=home
    Now that guy can sell some honey. I bet he has a Degree in Business and not Beekeeping.

    I don't think we need any more Label Requirements, unless it is calling something HoneyNut Cheerios when there is a lot more HFCS in the product than there is Honey.

    There is nothing to keep someone from making their label as explanitory as they like. Just look at "Really Raw". They have a label like Dr. Brounners Soap. But who reads the whole thing? Very few I bet. Or not more than once.

    My Label is simple and straight forward. Telling people what's in the jar, HONEY.
    Mark Berninghausen "That which works, persists."

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Honey labeling requirements... good enough?

    I'm a little confused. There's nothing that prevents me from labeling my honey as, for instance, raw, pure, unfiltered, local or such. And I don't see such claims on the labels of "store honey". I think the implication in that other thread was not to label mine as "good" but to force the other guy to label his as "bad".
    Politics is the entertainment branch of industry. -Frank Zappa

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Honey labeling requirements... good enough?

    Charlie,
    I think they were calling for fulldisclosure labeling on that other Thread. But, I doubt that anything would satisfy.

    Yes, you can label your honey how you wish, as long as it fits the Legal Requirements by doing what is required and not doing what is not allowed. Between those perameters lays freedom to do what you wish.
    Mark Berninghausen "That which works, persists."

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Honey labeling requirements... good enough?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian View Post
    so tell me rhaldridge,
    if 500 or so small beekeepers got together and collectively pooled resources and to sell their product, do you still believe that the industries "marketing system still favor large-scale honey packers over beekeepers"?
    in other words, shouldn't market meet the demand?
    Isn't that what you and 499 or so other beekeepers did? I think it's a great idea. Helps to level the playing field.

    Maybe beekeepers from the US are more cantankerous than Canadian ones.

    I'd just like to see a labeling system here that would differentiate between really good honey, and not-so-good honey. If a consumer walks into a store and sees honey that says "Manitoba Prairie Wildflower honey produced and bottled by independent beekeepers, with minimal filtering and a water content of17.6 percent." and right next to it a bottle of much cheaper honey that says "Manufactured in China" then I think it would turn out to be good for the independent beekeepers. Folks who care a lot about how food tastes are a rapidly growing market, I think.

    By the way, I'm not knocking all Chinese beekeepers. I know that in China, good honey is a pretty big deal; you can go into a specialty store devoted to honey and buy it by the capped frame. But industrial honey shouldn't be marketed in a way that competes with better honey, in my opinion. Right now, that seems to be a problem here.

    Ray

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Honey labeling requirements... good enough?

    Yay, freedom!

    But I did get the impression that "full disclosure labelling" would have included something like- "Mechanically Altered Honey".
    Politics is the entertainment branch of industry. -Frank Zappa

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Honey labeling requirements... good enough?

    Quote Originally Posted by rhaldridge View Post
    If a consumer walks into a store and sees honey that says "Manitoba Prairie Wildflower honey produced and bottled by independent beekeepers, with minimal filtering and a water content of17.6 percent." and right next to it a bottle of much cheaper honey that says "Manufactured in China" then I think it would turn out to be good for the independent beekeepers.
    Isn't that pretty much the case now?

    Quote Originally Posted by rhaldridge View Post
    Folks who care a lot about how food tastes are a rapidly growing market, I think.
    I agree but I'm thinking that taste is a different issue than labelling.
    Politics is the entertainment branch of industry. -Frank Zappa

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Honey labeling requirements... good enough?

    Ray,
    SoiuxBee Co-op members have done just that. Banned together to market their own honey. Being a cooperative of course they can buy and sell as much hyoney as their members produce. That's how Co-ops work in the US.

    Who establishes "good" and "not so good" standards? We can't even get an Identity Standard in this Country, a Standard which says what HONEY is, regardless of quality or qualities.

    I'm not sure what "industrial honey" is. If we really want to get into that conversation here in this Thread, which is about Labeling.
    Mark Berninghausen "That which works, persists."

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Honey labeling requirements... good enough?

    Quote Originally Posted by beemandan View Post
    Are you familiar with the Savannah Bee Company?
    http://www.savannahbee.com/cgi-bin/c...i?display=home
    Yeah, that's pretty amazing. He's getting better than 20 bucks a pound for his honey, unless I'm way off on my arithmetic. Of course, there's a lot of romantic BS there, but RBS is used to sell everything from cars to beans, so nothing wrong with that as long as it's accurate. Of course, I imagine he's got a lot of overhead, and he has to pay his beekeepers more-- some of the stuff is imported, and so on. Still, looks like he's making money and keeping beekeepers in business.

    There are other folks doing it as well. Dean sells Kirk Webster's and Dee Lusby's honey at a premium, and Marina Marchese seems to be doing well selling honey on the basis of varietal differences.

    It's not that you can't do it. But, as Mark alluded to, if there were full disclosure on the label, that would go a long way toward making this kind of marketing available to those who aren't marketing geniuses. Which I guess is most folks.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Honey labeling requirements... good enough?

    I think the implication in that other thread was not to label mine as "good" but to force the other guy to label his as "bad". -cg3
    Yeah, although it was more than implied by a few on that other thread. They flat-out stated that they believed everyone should be required to label beyond the current standards.

    You know, "marketing through legislation."

    I wonder how many labs would have to open to run all the pollen analyses if labels were required to disclose floral sources? Think of the math: more than 300 million pounds of honey consumed annually in the U. S. Let's say 300 million for simplicity, and let's say that it's sampled at a rate of 1/2 percent. That's 1.5 million samples for pollen analysis each year. Spread among the, what, 5? labs that currently can do that kind of work? That's 300,000 samples per lab per year, or more than 1000 per work day per lab each year.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Honey labeling requirements... good enough?

    Not being a genius does have a price. (That goes for consumers, too.)

    Savannah Honey just showed up in our local Krogers. If I recall correctly, it was $10 for a 12oz bottle. Not too shabby. But they also carry 2 local beekeepers raw honey for something like $5-6. It will be interesting to see how it shakes out.
    Politics is the entertainment branch of industry. -Frank Zappa

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Honey labeling requirements... good enough?

    Quote Originally Posted by sqkcrk View Post

    Who establishes "good" and "not so good" standards? We can't even get an Identity Standard in this Country, a Standard which says what HONEY is, regardless of quality or qualities.
    You're right, of course. In the other thread, I tried to get some foreign beekeepers to chime in on what problems the more stringent standards in, say, the EU, have affected their business. Apparently the EU standards don't allow filtering out all pollen, for example, and even specify the mesh size of permitted screens. I can see where these regulations could become pretty aggravating, in the hands of petty bureaucrats, and in fact, there was a case where a court ruled that GMO pollen made honey unfit for sale; they classified pollen as a honey "additive". This opened a really ferocious can of worms, since the ruling might have led to mandatory testing for GMO pollen. But eventually cooler heads prevailed, as I understand it, and new regulations defined pollen as an integral part of the product.

    I know it's not a simple matter. I'm about as ignorant about bees as they come, but I know that there's lots of sentiment among even the biggest outfits that a standard is needed to protect the integrity of the product.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Honey labeling requirements... good enough?

    I think the government should mind its own business and not ours.
    if we do a good job of it, we don't need their protection.

    Let them tax the foreigner by tariff and excise rather than take our income.
    That's what was done in the 18th & 19th centuries, and there were times that they didn't know what to do about the budget surplus.

    Some of the scariest words a small businessman (or any citizen, for that matter) can hear are,

    "I'm from the government and I'm here to help."
    Last edited by Beregondo; 02-22-2013 at 03:37 PM. Reason: clarity

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Honey labeling requirements... good enough?

    Quote Originally Posted by cg3 View Post
    Not being a genius does have a price. (That goes for consumers, too.)

    Savannah Honey just showed up in our local Krogers. If I recall correctly, it was $10 for a 12oz bottle. Not too shabby. But they also carry 2 local beekeepers raw honey for something like $5-6. It will be interesting to see how it shakes out.
    Those local guys need to raise their prices.
    Mark Berninghausen "That which works, persists."

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Honey labeling requirements... good enough?

    Quote Originally Posted by sqkcrk View Post
    Those local guys need to raise their prices.
    ...by at least 100%

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