By J. S. MILLERAssistant chief, Specialty Crops Branch, Fruit and Vegetable Division, Agricultural Marketing Service.

Revised October 1980
Pages 185 – 186

The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) serves as the focal point for honey marketing activities of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This Agency frequently serves as liaison between the honey industry and the various other agencies of the Department. AMS provides several marketing aids for use of the honey industry.

Current Marketing Information

Marketing of honey is nationwide, since production occurs in all States. It is estimated that approximately half of each year's honey production is sold by the producer direct to consumers through roadside stands, by house-to-house selling, through mail-order sales, or from the producer's home. Some sales are made by the small or part-time producers who have no real means of determining a true market price for their product. Often, such sales are made without factual information on the market situation.

AMS has for many years published Honey Market News to make current marketing information available to producers and other interested persons. This unbiased monthly printed report is national in scope. The report contains factual information on supply, demand, market prices, beeswax, colony and honey plant conditions, and crop production on a State and national basis. A weekly press release also is issued on a national basis; it contains prices paid to producers and importers for bulk unprocessed honey and beeswax. Information in the weekly release also is available by telephone each Friday through a telephone recorder. Data on producer, handler, broker, and packer sales of honey used in the monthly report and weekly releases are obtained from individuals or firms in the honey industry by trained AMS market news reporters. Honey import and export data are included in the monthly report to help provide a complete picture of the supply situation. Likewise, foreign honey crop reports and prices, furnished by the Department's Foreign Agricultural Service, are included to give some insight on the world honey market.

U.S. Grade Standards

U.S. grade standards for extracted and comb honey, established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, have been effective for many years. Grade standards provide a means of uniformly classing the quality of honey. Use of the standards is not compulsory. They are designed to provide a convenient basis for sales, for establishing quality control programs, and for determining loan values. The standards also serve as a basis for inspection and grading of honey by AMS and as a quality guide for processors.

There are four designated U.S. grades (quality levels) for extracted honey: U.S. grade A, U.S. grade B, U.S. grade C, and U.S. grade D. Factors considered in determining the grade of extracted honey are flavor, absence of defects, clarity, and moisture. Honey color is classed by permanent glass color standards or by using the Pfund honey color grader.

The grades for comb-section honey are U.S. Fancy, U.S. No. 1, U.S. No. 1 Mixed Color, U.S. No. 2, and Unclassified. Grades for shallow frame comb, wrapped cut-comb, and chunk or bulk comb honey packed in tin or glass are U.S. Fancy, U.S. No. 1, and Unclassified. Factors used in determining grades are appearance of cappings, presence of pollen grains, uniformity of honey, attachment of comb to section, absence of granulation, presence of honeydew, and weight.

Inspection and Grading Services

AMS offers inspection and grading services to the honey industry on a fee-for-service basis. Four general types of service are available:

Lot Inspection.-Inspection and grading of specific lots located in plant warehouses, commercial storage, railway cars, trucks, or any other conveyance or storage facility.

Continuous Inspection.-Inspection and grading in an AMS-approved processing plant, with one or more inspectors present at all times the plant is operating to make in-process checks on preparation, processing, and packing operations.

Pack Certification.-Similar to continuous inspection, except that the inspector need not be present continuously during all operating shifts of the plant.

Unofficial Sample Inspection.-Inspection of samples submitted by an applicant for determination of grade.

Inquiries and requests for information concerning honey market news or inspection and grading services and copies of the standards for grades of honey may be addressed to Fruit and Vegetable Division, Agricultural Marketing Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C. 20250, or to field offices of the Agency.