May 25, 2021 4 min read

In our book, there is only one honey worthy of consumption - raw, local, unprocessed, unpasteurized honey. It’s not what you’ll find at most big box stores or your nearest grocer, but that is quickly shifting as more people recognize the importance of honey quality. Let’s dive into it, shall we?

The major concerns of conventional honey processing and honeybee farming

Most ubiquitous, conventional honey is heated, highly processed, sourced from a variety of floral sources, and homogenized to create the standard translucent, caramel colored liquid honey found in honey bears and plastic squeeze bottles. Convenient? perhaps. The problem? When honey is heated above hive temperature (about 99 degrees F) it begins to lose its beneficial properties as enzymes are altered (proteins denature - mutate or break down - in the presence of extreme heat). This means all the goodness of honey in its pure and original state are lost through the processing which includes heat, filtration, and homogenization.

In addition to the alteration of honey, commercial and large scale conventional honey producers often transport their hives from pollination contract to pollination contract, potentially mixing their bees with colonies from other locations. This increases the chance of disease and pest contamination, let alone the taxing nature of such travel on honeybees. The contracts for such pollination needs are often monocultures that are may be treated with pesticides before or during nectar collection, resulting in a strain on the colony and the contamination of honey with said pesticides. Large scale producers are also likely to treat their bees with antibiotics year-round and supplement their diet during transport with sugar substitutes. The cumulative effect of such practices not only degrades the quality and medicinal benefits of the honey being produced, but it severely compromises honeybee health, as bees travel hundreds or thousands of miles at times. It is important to note that while there are adverse implications for this mode of production, it is currently the backbone of our agricultural system and enables food production on an international scale. (We’ll be highlighting the importance of our pollinators in a separate blog post). While we can’t change the system as a whole, we do believe we can take steps in the right direction by modeling an alternative.

At Big Island Moonbow Farms, this just won’t do, given our priority, first and foremost, of honeybee health. So, we do things a bit differently.
We manage our hives organically without the use of chemicals or chemical pesticides on certified organic lands. Our beekeeper and co-founder is also highly selective of hive and colony placement, ensuring bees are as far away as possible from non organic lands or agricultural plots that do use chemical pesticides for pest and weed management.

We also don't utilize antibiotics in our operation. Instead, we’re able to keep our bee's immune systems strong by providing a healthy environment that contains an abundance of nectar sources, and use organic treatments when needed to mitigate pest concerns. Our carefully considered and unique environment creates a healthy gut microbiome in the honey bees. This promotes the growth of beneficial probiotics which are captured in Wai Meli honey.

Raw Wai Meli Honey

Key differences in honey processing

Wai Meli honey is raw, unprocessed, unfiltered, unadulterated. Meaning, we leave the good stuff in and the chemicals out, both for the sake of honeybee health and maximum flavor and medicinal benefit.

Our process is simple - when the bees cap the comb, we know it’s time to harvest. We pull the frames of capped honey, transport them to processing equipment on the farm, and spin out the honey through a stainless steel extraction line. The freshly spun honey is pumped over to a bottling tank with a single coarse filter that captures larger bits of beeswax, propolis, and other hive materials. We then bottle the honey, pop a lid on the jar, and voila! The process is complete.

As you’ll notice, our honey is not pasteurized, heated, or fine filtered, which in sum remove pollen, naturally occurring yeast, amino acids, enzymes, antioxidants and minerals. Conventional processing essentially removes most, if not all, of the beneficial and nutritive properties of raw honey. The high heat melts and homogenizes honey, which in addition to damaging beneficial enzymes as we touched on previously, is what keeps honey liquid. All honey in its pure state will eventually crystallize - it’s a natural process contingent upon temperature and nectar source. But most consumers aren’t accustomed to non-liquid honey. The heating and liquification of honey creates a misconception that the honey is ‘fresh’ when in truth, it could have been on the shelf for quite some time.

On a global scale, recent testing and legislation have identified honeys coming out of foreign countries and even some areas of the US as having been cut or adulterated with rice syrups, high fructose corn syrup, and other sweeteners. Unless you know the source firsthand, it’s difficult to be sure what is in the jar or bottle off the shelf. With this new legislation is in place and as awareness spreads throughout the marketplace, we are hopeful such practices will decrease with time and consumer advocacy. We’re proud to be at the forefront of shifting the industry back in the direction of traditional, original practices, and grateful for customers and community members, like you, for supporting a worthy cause.

The takeaway

If you’re keen on supporting honeybee health and your own health, local raw honey is the best input you can give your body, and the best choice in supporting global honeybee health. Without being privy to the source of your honey, it’s likely you’ll encounter honey that has been cut with other sweeteners or produced by honeybees managed with the use of pesticides and antibiotics. The best honey is processed simply, with minimal inputs, allowing the wisdom of nature to lead the way. This is what we embrace here at Big Island Moonbow Farms - local, raw, honey straight from the hive, to you.