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North Carolina Honey…..

Honey valued at approximately $15 million is produced each year in the state by our industrious beekeepers and their hard working bees, said Dr. David Tarpy, NC State University, Professor of Entomology and State Apiculturist.

Honey’s unique composition makes it an effective antimicrobial agent, useful for treating minor burns and scrapes and for aiding the treatment of sore throats and other bacterial infections. Research is underway at Wake Forest University studying the use of propolis, a dark, adhesive-like substance that bees make to secure and winterize their hive, in the treatment of cancer.

Honey Is…

honeycombHoney is honey, it’s just that simple.  A bottle of pure honey contains the natural sweet substance produced by honey bees from the nectar of plants or secretions of living parts of plants.  Nothing else.

When scientists begin to look for all of the elements found in this wonderful product of nature, they find a complex of naturally flavored sugars as well as trace enzymes, minerals, vitamins, and amino acids. (Complete information concerning honey’s chemical makeup and nutritional content is available in our downloadable PDF brochure, “Honey, a Reference Guide to Nature’s Sweetener”).
Honey is made by bees in one of the world’s most efficient facilities, the beehive.  The 60,000 or so bees in a beehive may collectively travel as much as 55,000 miles and visit more than two million flowers to gather enough nectar to make just a pound of honey!

The color and flavor of honey differ depending on the bees’ nectar source (the blossoms).  In fact, there are more than 300 unique kinds of honey in the United States, originating from such diverse floral sources as Clover, Eucalyptus and Orange Blossoms.  In general, lighter colored honeys are mild in flavor, while darker honeys are usually more robust in flavor.

The Delicious Forms of Honey

Most of us know honey as a sweet, golden liquid. However, honey can be found in a variety of forms.
  • Comb Honey - Comb honey is honey in its original form; that is, honey inside of the honeycomb.  The beeswax comb is edible!
  • Cut Comb - Cut comb honey is liquid honey that has added chunks of the honey comb in the jar. This is also known as a liquid-cut comb combination.
  • Liquid Honey - Free of visible crystals, liquid honey is extracted from the honey comb by centrifugal force, gravity or straining. Because liquid honey mixes easily into a variety of foods, it’s especially convenient for cooking and baking. Most of the honey produced in the United States is sold in the liquid form.
  • Naturally Crystallized Honey - Naturally crystallized honey is honey in which part of the glucose content has spontaneously crystallized.  It is safe to eat.
  • Whipped (or Cremed) Honey - While all honey will crystallize in time, whipped honey (also known as cremed honey) is brought to market in a crystallized state. The crystallization is controlled so that, at room temperature, the honey can be spread like butter or jelly. In many countries around the world, whipped honey is preferred to the liquid form especially at breakfast time.

Honey Color and Flavor

honeyHoney is normally bought and sold in one of two ways: by variety or by color.  Most consumers, whether buying honey in a supermarket, at a farmer’s market, or directly from a beekeeper, will typically buy either a blend of pure honeys, the so-called Supermarket Store Brands or a particular honey varietal, such as the most common of all the varietals, Clover Honey.  The color and flavor of many honeys are linked; that is, the darker the honey, the more apt it is to taste stronger and more robust. The lighter colored honeys are usually more delicate and sweeter in flavor.  Sometimes people shop for a honey varietal simply because they like the flavor or it reminds them of the kind of honey they had when growing up or they like to impress their friends with a unique treasure!  Overall, these customers like the delicious flavors of honey; the color is irrelevant to them.

However industrial users, such as bakers, food processors, and beverage makers, will often buy honey by color.  Industrial users are typically driven by ingredient cost. The industrial users will often contact a major honey packer (bottler) and buy in large totes or 55 gallon drums.  While they want pure honey in the formulas, of course, they want the honey as an ingredient more for labeling purposes than for variety.  In addition, the functional aspects of the honey, for example, as an ingredient used in baking, doesn’t much change if the honey is light or dark.  Honey is hygroscopic and attracts moisture to the bread or dessert – a very valuable trait in baking.  Generally speaking a very light colored honey is much more expensive than a dark honey.  The baking company may specify a darker color grade such as amber honey, rather than a lighter colored honey such as a water-white honey.

A question that is often asked is how industrial grade honey is “made?”  Most people understand how bees will visit a particular field of flowers to get a certain variety, e.g. Sage honey, but they can’t quite understand how an Extra Light Amber color of honey is found.  Actually, the answer is rather simple. 

Many commercial beekeepers, rather than keeping track of to what flowers their bees might go, are simply content to collect whatever honey the bees bring in at the end of a season.  It’s a little more scientific than that, of course, but at the end of the season or month, or whatever the time period, the honey is collected and graded by color. 

One last quick point: we are amazed at the fact that there are more than 300 varieties of honey found in the United States.  However, only a small percentage of those honeys are popular.  It sometimes takes more of an effort to market a particular variety, e.g. Huajillo or Sunflower, than to simply collect those honeys and grade them into amber and extra light amber honey for industrial usage.

Honey Products


Honey products do not meet the compositional criteria for pure honey, but are products consisting in whole or in part of honey.

  • Dried Honey - Dried honey is honey that has been dehydrated over very high heat, then mixed with starches or sugars to keep it free-flowing. It is not true honey.
  • Flavored/Fruited Honey – Flavored or Fruited honey is honey that has either fruit, coloring or flavoring added. Though the fruits or flavoring may be quite delicious it is not pure.
  • Infused Honey - Infused honey is honey that has had flavors of herbs, spices, peels, etc. added to it by steeping.

Specially Certified Honey

  • Kosher Honey - Kosher honey is honey that is produced, processed and packaged in accordance with Jewish dietary regulations and certified by a Kosher organization.
  • Organic Honey - Organic honey is honey that is produced, processed and packaged in accordance with USDA regulations on organic products and certified by a USDA certified agency or organization.

The Many Benefits of Honey

In addition to being a great natural sweetener, honey has a multitude of benefits that many people don’t know about.  Have you ever had an unrelenting sore throat? Honey has been proven to be a natural throat soother! Are you an athlete looking for a natural energy boost before the big game? Honey’s unique blend of natural sweeteners gives it the ability to provide quick energy in any circumstance. This section of the Web site will allow you to further explore these and other benefits of honey, and will also be a source for nutrition facts on this pure, natural sweetener.

Honey Links


NCDA&CS Markets Division, Joe Sanderson, Director
Mailing Address: 1020 Mail Service Center, Raleigh NC 27699-1020
Physical Address: 2 W. Edenton Street, Room 402, Raleigh NC 27601
Phone: (919) 707-3100; FAX: (919) 733-0999