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Honey Honey - is it as sustainable as it is sweet?

Sharing the London Honey Company's story for natural, unpasteurised and sustainable honey.

Raw honey has incredible health benefits. From containing powerful anti-oxidants to boosting immune function, its clear to see why the bee pollen in raw honey has been used in Chinese medicine for years. Eating locally produced honey is even thought to prevent allergies to the pollen in your area.


However, as an animal product, honey certainly can cause some debate when it comes to sustainability. Some may argue that any honey production will put human needs above those of the bees. So this week, I spoke to 'The London Honey Company', to understand how companies like these are practising a more sustainable honey production and to learn what we can do to make better honey choices.


The London Honey Company was created in 1999 by Steve Benbow, on a residential roof in Tower Bridge. His hives have now spread across the roofs of Fortnum and Mason and the Tate art galleries, and the company supplies premium honey to Chefs such as Skye Gyngell of 'Spring', and Marcus Wareing. I headed to their site at Spa Terminus in Bermondsey, which is open every Saturday, to learn more.


To start, there are two key subgroups of honey, monofloral and polyfloral. As the terms suggest, monofloral is made predominantly from a single flower species, while polyfloral honey is made from the nectar of a variety of different plants, so is more often described by location. The nectar variety that the bees feed on leads to a unique honey texture and flavour, hence how the wide variety that 'The London Honey Company' offers, all have different flavour profiles. Raw honey is jarred without pasteurisation, therefore retaining the bee pollen and nutrients.


Unfortunately, most supermarket honey is not produced this way. Mass produced honey is a combination of many honeys, which are mixed together with heat, creating a honey that is no longer 'raw'. This honey has now lost the bee pollen and has far fewer nutrients - so not all honey is equal. Some supermarket honeys are also 'stretched' with sugar syrups, all in all resulting in a product that has nowhere near the health claims of raw honey, and is actually pretty much the same as sugar.

 

Not all honey is made equal

 

For monofloral varieties, the bees are moved between fields of the flower variety to provide sufficient nectar. Like me, you may wonder about the bee's welfare and whether the moving process is stressful for them. Well the answer lies in the commitment of the bee keepers. At night, when the bees hibernate, the beekeepers of the London Honey Company camp by the hives, then move the whole hive in the dead of night. This allows for a stress free transition, whilst enabling the beekeepers to continue to provide sufficient food for the bees.


Over winter, the bees enter this hibernation state more permanently, but are constantly vibrating and working, which requires food. And this is what bees actually produce honey for, it is their food for during hibernation. So the question is - it is sustainable for humans to harvest the honey for themselves? Well the London Honey Company argues yes. They are attentive carers and practice a beekeeping that ensures the bees have more than enough food for themselves.

 

It is sustainable for humans to harvest the honey for themselves?

 

So the key learning - not all honey is made equal. Raw honey is by far a more superior product to the processed kind found in supermarkets. Its clear that for sustainable honey production, attention and dedication from the beekeepers is essential. And not only does this make for happier bees, but this also makes a product that is so much healthier for us.


My recommendation? Choose wisely. Source a local, un-processed honey and if you can, talk to the producer to learn more about your honey. I'd thoroughly recommend trying the London Honey Company, the flavours are textures and beautiful and so varied! You can find your closest stockist here: https://thelondonhoneycompany.co.uk/


References;

Honeybeesuite.com

Treehugger.com

Savannahbee.com

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