You want to eat vegan and you are not sure if honey is vegan? When discussing whether honey is vegan, opinions often differ. Not every vegan does without honey, but most believe that honey is not vegan.
In this article we want to explain whether this is correct and if so, why. We have asked and answered the most important questions on the subject. You will find all the information here and at the end you can decide for yourself whether you want to do without honey or not.
the essentials in brief
- Bees collect nectar, which is then processed into honey. Most of this happens in the bee's stomach. Honey is an animal product and therefore not vegan.
- Many bees are injured or killed during honey harvest. In the case of Bioland, Naturland and Demeter honey, there are strict regulations for dealing with the bees. Above all, care is taken to ensure that the bees are not harmed.
- If you do not use honey, you can use other sweeteners. Maple syrup, agave syrup, sugar beet syrup and dandelion syrup, for example, can be used as a vegan alternative to honey. Stevia or dried fruit are also used as vegan sweeteners.
Is honey vegan?: What you should know
In the following we have asked and answered all the important questions on the subject. We will give you all the information you need to decide whether you want or should avoid honey as a vegan.
Is the production of honey vegan?
Many flowers and conifers excrete a nectar, which is also known as sieve tube juice. This sieve tube juice is collected by bees and processed into honey. The bee chews the nectar and swallows it.
In the bee's honey stomach, the nectar is broken down into glucose and fructose (simple sugar). The glucose is then further processed into hydrogen peroxide and gluconic acid. In addition, the water content is reduced from 70 percent to almost 20 percent or less.
After the bee has partially digested the nectar, it hands it over to another hive bee, which starts the process all over again. Transmission is oral, which is why honey is also known as "bee puke" by some people.
The honey continues to mature in the honeycombs of the beehive. When the water content is around 18 percent, the honey can be harvested. (Image source: Bianca Ackermann / Unsplash)
The honey is considered ripe when the water content is around 18 percent. For harvesting, the honeycombs are removed from the hive and, after removing the top cover, thrown in a high-speed machine. The high speed squeezes the honey out of the combs.
Why is honey not vegan?
In the vegan diet, all animal products are avoided. This includes any product for which animals are exploited or killed. Vegans therefore avoid meat, fish, dairy products and eggs.
Honey is an animal product.
But honey is also categorized by many vegans as a non-vegan product. One of the reasons for this is that the nectar is processed by the bee and is therefore considered an animal product. In addition, bees do not give up their honey voluntarily and some of them are injured or killed during the honey harvest.
As a vegan, should I avoid honey?
When you choose a vegan diet , you choose to avoid all animal products, including honey. In addition, not every beekeeper pays attention to the well-being of his bees. Many bees are injured and even killed during harvest. In addition, the bees do not give up the honey voluntarily.
The bees need their own honey for overwintering food. (Image source: Sophie Nengel / Unsplash)
Bees do not (only) produce honey so that it can be harvested by humans. The honey is primarily used as fodder during the winter. It contains important nutrients that protect the bees from mites and other diseases. Many beekeepers replace the honey over the winter months with mostly cheap sugar water, which tends to have the opposite effect and makes the bees more susceptible to disease.
So if you follow a strict vegan diet, you should also leave out the honey. Ultimately, however, it is your decision whether you want to avoid honey or not.
Can honey be made vegan?
Since the honey is made by the bee itself, it is already an animal product. However, it is possible to harvest honey without harming the bees. The following table is intended to give you an overview of the different regulations for dealing with bees depending on the type of housing.
|attitude||collection area||building material of the beehive||wintering|
|Conventional||No restrictions||Mostly built of plastic - The use of pesticide coatings is permitted||All types of sugar are permitted as food for overwintering|
|Bioland (1)||Organic cultures are preferred||Natural building materials - Only low-emission paints are allowed||Some of the honey must be left in the hive, and organic sugar is also allowed for this purpose|
|Naturland (2)||at least 3 kilometers away from possible sources of pollution||Natural building materials - Only linseed or wood oil as a finish||At least 10 percent of the honey must be left in the hive|
|Demeter (3)||preferably biologically / ecologically farmed areas||Natural materials - paint only with harmless wood preservatives||The honey from the hive serves as fodder for overwintering|
While little value is placed on the bees and their health in conventional honey production, there are clear guidelines for dealing with bees in Bioland, Naturland and Demeter production. With these three types of husbandry, more attention is paid to ensuring that the animals are not harmed. In addition, some of the honey is left to them as food for the winter.
Strictly speaking, honey cannot be made vegan.
However, if you don't want to do without honey, you can make sure that the bees are harmed as little as possible during the production process.
Strictly speaking, honey cannot be made vegan. However, there are regulations for handling the bees with Bioland, Naturland and Demeter honey. (Image Source: Christina Branco / Unsplash)
Which honey is vegan?
Honey is basically an animal product. Since honey cannot traditionally be made vegan, there is no such thing as vegan honey. Bioland, Naturland, Demeter or Manuka honey are also not vegan. However, there are some alternatives that can replace honey in a vegan diet.
If you are unsure about other products, you can look for the V-Label. This is shown on most vegetarian and vegan products to provide a better overview. You can recognize vegan products quickly and easily by the V-Label with the addition "Vegan".
What vegan alternatives are there to honey?
Since honey - as already explained - is not vegan, we will now introduce you to some vegan alternatives for sweetening food and hot drinks. For example, you can substitute honey with the following sweeteners:
- Maple Syrup: Obtained from the sugar maple tree.
- Sugar Beet Syrup: Made from the juice of sugar beets.
- Agave syrup: It is made from the juice of the agave.
- Dandelion Syrup: Made from dandelion flowers, sugar, and lemon juice.
- Dried fruits: Dates, raisins and dried apricots are particularly suitable as sweeteners.
- Stevia: Is a mostly chemically obtained extract of the Stevia plant.
So that you can find the right alternative for you, we have explained the most popular substitutes for you below.
Maple syrup is great for cooking and baking. It is also slightly lower in calories than honey and, depending on the quality, also contains more nutrients. However, the syrup is obtained from the Canadian sugar maple, which is why the transport routes are very long.
Maple syrup is a good and vegan alternative to honey. (Image Source: Nadine Primeau / Unsplash)
The juice obtained from the sugar maple is thickened by heating and ultimately only one liter of maple syrup is produced from around 40 liters of juice. This primarily contains sucrose and fructose. The lighter the syrup, the better the quality.
sugar beet syrup
Sugar beet syrup is also known as beetroot and is made from the juice of sugar beets. To do this, the juice is boiled down and thickened. Since the sugar beets are mostly grown in Germany or other Central European countries, the transport routes are very short. In addition, no other additives are required for production.
The syrup also contains healthy nutrients such as folic acid, magnesium and potassium. The uses for sugar beet syrup are very similar to those of honey. In addition to baking and cooking, sugar beet syrup is also suitable as a spread.
Since sugar beet syrup is a fruit product, people with fructose intolerance should use another sweetener.
Agaves require a hot and dry climate, which is why they are mainly grown in Latin America. For the production of agave syrup, the juice of Mexican agaves is tapped off and then boiled down into syrup.
Agave syrup is ideal for sweetening hot drinks or sauces. However, it should not be used for baking. The high fructose content of the agave syrup leads to a quick and intensive browning without the dough having the usual stability.
A popular substitute for honey is dandelion syrup. This is made from dandelion flowers, sugar and lemon juice. Dandelion contains important bitter substances and potassium.
You can easily make your own dandelion syrup from dandelion, lemon juice and sugar. (Image Source: Viridi Green / Unsplash)
Dandelion syrup is hard to find commercially, but you can easily make it yourself at home. Alternatively, you can also order dandelion syrup online. The syrup can then be used in the same way as honey.
Dried fruits such as dates, raisins or apricots are also suitable as a honey substitute. They can be used in baking and to make desserts. Dried fruit can also replace honey in muesli.
In addition to many minerals and vitamins, dried fruits also contain a lot of sugar. For this reason, dried fruit should not be consumed in large quantities.
Stevia is a South American plant whose chemical extract has a very high sweetening power. The sweetener is calorie-free, which is why stevia is used in almost all sugar-free drinks. In addition, stevia is metabolized dependent on insulin and is therefore also suitable for diabetics. The sugar alternative xylitol is also suitable for diabetics. This is also a chemical product with few calories.
However, there is still no EU organic certification for stevia, as only the chemically obtained extract of the plant has been approved as food. Stevia can also have an aftertaste that not everyone likes.
If you are following a strictly vegan diet, you should also avoid honey. Honey is an animal product and therefore cannot be made vegan. In addition, many bees are injured and sometimes even killed during the honey harvest.
If you still don't want to do without honey, you can use Bioland, Naturland or Demeter honey. Attention is paid to species-appropriate husbandry and good handling of the bees. However, there are also numerous vegan alternatives that can replace honey.
- organic land. Bioland guidelines. 2020 Nov
- natural land. Naturland standards - organic beekeeping. 2020 May
- demeter Guidelines 2021 - Production and Processing Certification Guidelines »Demeter« and »Biodynamic«. 2021 Jan
- V label. The seal of quality for vegan and vegetarian products. 2021 Jan