Honey Prices

As I wrote earlier, the USDA’s 2007 honey report had some encouraging news about Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). It also indicated that honey prices were virtually unchanged in 2007. They use something called the “all honey price,” which is a weighted index of different kinds of honey, in different regions, sold through retail and wholesale outlets in the United States. It fell from $1.036/lb, at the end of 2006, to $1.032/lb by the end of 2007. Here’s a table of honey prices that I keep an eye on, and how they changed from the last time I reported on them (August 2007):

Source and Type Price August 2007 ($/lb) Recent Price % Change
Costco Clover 1.47 1.47 0
Sam’s Club Clover 1.53 1.53 0
Miller’s Honey Clover 1.45 1.55 +6.9
Miller’s Honey Wildflower 1.08 1.15 +6.5
Dutch Gold Clover N/A 1.30
Dutch Gold Wildflower N/A 1.26

Though it’s up a bit from last time, that Miller’s Honey wildflower still looks like a bargain. Costco is a warehouse store in the US that sells honey at near-wholesale prices in near-retail sizes (6 lb or 2.7 kg at my local store). Right now, they sell clover honey at a lower unit price, and in much smaller sizes, than Miller’s Honey. If you live close to one of their stores, you can take advantage of this deal and avoid shipping charges. Dutch Gold is a packer on the east coast that commenter Dick Adams recommended, and I’ll be including their prices going forward.

Better reporting of honey prices

I’d like to make some improvements to my Honey Prices feature. Up to now, I’ve been publishing a report when I buy honey or after some news comes out about honey prices. I’ll make a point of including year-end prices, to make my data more comparable with the USDA’s. I’m also interested in tracking honey prices in other countries. Maybe you can help. Do you know any reliable suppliers of inexpensive bulk honey that post prices on the web in English? How about government reports, again in English, on honey production and prices? I’d love to hear about them so I can track honey prices globally. Please let me know by leaving a comment.

Update 10/6/08 – What a difference seven months make!

My latest price reportindicates surging honey prices of between 6.5% and 38.9%.

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10 thoughts on “Honey Prices

  1. Wiglaf the Mighty

    Mr. Washington Winemaker,

    I am a homebased mead maker. I thank you for taking the time to post the honey prices and list some recent facts about the honey market, I just wanted to point out something. This is not a Ha-Ha you are wrong thing…just a FYI in my dealings with honey and mead/wine making. Those brands/types and sources listed above, while they are great for baking or food preparation, in my opinion , they are terrible for mead/wine/beer making. This is why: Most brands that you can purchase as a consumer at the store are mass produced for the populas. They most of the time add corn syrup and heat it up to a boil destroying the natural sugars, protiens, flavors and complexities that honey in its natural state contain and have to offer.
    Now, when I first started making/brewing mead I used that mega-store-precessed honey in my mead. It came out ” ok ” but it lacked something. After attending the International Mead Festival a couple of years ago in Colorado I talked to several ” In the Know ” people and they told me to start getting my honey from a beekeeper, they called it Raw, unfiltered ( unheated ) honey, that can only come from a beekeeper. Well, I looked up one and it has changed the mouthfeel, sweetness, aroma and overall taste of my mead.
    This is where the price comes into effect. In your chart up above the Costco Clover for 12lbs…that would be $17.64. I buy my honey from local beekeepers and 12lb of, pure, raw honey is about $34.98 and that is about $2.91 per lb. At almost twice the cost, it is well worth it. They only brewing difference is that you have to just warm up the honey…not boil it or even come close and all the pollen, propolis and beeswax will float to the surface and create a scum that can be taken off with a spoon.
    Because mead needs to be aged in the bottle for almost 6 months to a year…more if you can stand it…as it ages the floral/fruit notes and the complex flavors that makes mead so good comes out…with store bought, well lets put that on a peanut butter sandwich.

  2. Erroll Post author

    Hello Eric,

    Thank you for adding your perspective. It sounds to me like there are two issues here: what is the best way to track honey prices? and should you buy honey from a beekeeper or a packer?

    If you want to put your finger on the pulse of the honey market, I think it makes sense to track the price of clover honey because it is – by far – the biggest part of the honey market in the United States. Warehouse stores like Costco and Sam’s Club, and packers like Miller’s Honey and Dutch Gold are widely available to, and heavily used by, meadmakers who buy honey in quantity. This makes them good sources of information on the state of the honey market, even if you never buy from them.

    Think about how else I might do it. Let’s say a beekeeper, who lived 10 miles away from me was selling blackberry honey, and I reported that price in a post about “honey prices in the US.” It would be kind of silly, wouldn’t it? It would have almost no bearing on what you, or anyone else in the country paid for their honey. What I’m trying to do is give people an idea of what the honey market is like for people who want to buy in bulk.

    As to buying from beekeepers or packers, that’s a personal choice. My experience is a little different from yours, however. I too, have heard of the benefits of buying raw honey verses supermarket honey. I was eager to test this out, so I bought two gallons of raw clover honey, that was never heated above 120F. This temperature allows the use of modern bottling equipment, but isn’t much hotter than the honey would get inside a beehive on a hot summer day. I chose clover because I wanted a direct comparison to supermarket honey, and in the US that’s almost always clover.

    I was very disappointed at the result, because like you, I believed that fresh, raw honey would be much better. When I tasted it, in a side by side comparison with honey from Costco, I found that they weren’t identical, but one was not really better than the other. When I made mead from both of them, they were both very good, but again, neither one better than the other. I would encourage anyone to make comparisons like this, head to head with the same floral source, and see for themselves. Remember, that if your beekeeper sells something other than clover, and you like it better, it may just mean that you like that kind of honey better than clover. Maybe you would like it just as much if you bought from a packer – you would almost certainly save a lot of money.

    If, like you, they see a difference worth paying for, they should spend the extra money and buy from the beekeeper. If, like me, they are reminded of the old children’s story of the Emperor’s New Clothes, they should look for a reliable packer or warehouse store.

    One more thing. Remember that packers sell honey that came from beekeepers! The same stuff. They don’t boil their honey – why would they? Some of them pasteurize it, and some don’t. You can take your pick. Also, they sell honey. Not honey blended with corn syrup.

    We may not agree on the best honey to buy, but I hope you find the honey market information useful. And we can still swap stories about our mead!


  3. Wiglaf the Mighty

    Salutations Erroll,

    I never thought of it that way. I never thought that, why would the producers of honey boil it, when they do the same thing that I do when I get the raw honey, heat it to let the impurity out and pasteurize it. So in a sense I am paying more for the raw honey and heating it to 120 degrees and taking the ” scum ” out of it…when the packers do the same thing at a reduced rate of purchase price and give me the finished product. Makes perfect sense, why pay more plus having to do all the elbow work…when I can buy it already pasteurized and at a cheaper price to boot. I have been schooled!!!!…hahaha 🙂
    I have had to get some varieties of ” specialised ” honey if I wanted to make a different kind of mead batch. Some stores don’t sell the kind that I want, that is when you would have to go to the beekeeper…also it depends on the season. For instance, Mint Honey isn’t in season all year…as also blackberry. But, Clover as you put it, is the most popular kind.
    We will deffinately have to swap some mead stories and recipes. I am always excited to talk to a fellow homebrewer. Thanks again for giving me some well deserved information.

  4. Dick Adams

    Thank you for providing this report. It is an appreciated service. As of March 13, 2008, honey prices are lower than they were five years ago.

    There are honey packers other than Dutch Gold who could be tracked. In my opinion, the prices to track are the 5-lb prices amongst supermarkets and the 5-gal prices between dealers and beekeepers. I do not begrudge beekeepers asking retail prices for a gallon. But they have to be competitive on bulk sales.

    As for heating honey, pasteurization starts at 149F (65C) for 30 minutes. My honey comes flash-pasteurized and my tap water is 120F. Plus I do not drink with people who boil their honey. 😉

    As this corn syrup added argument, read the label on the jar before you claim it contains corn syrup.

    Also I have judged 15 flights of Mead and I’ve yet to hear another judge comment on whether the the honey came from a beekeeper, a dealer/packer, or a supermarket.


  5. Dick Adams

    On March 13th, I wrote:
    “Also I have judged 15 flights of Mead and I’ve yet to hear another judge comment on whether the the honey came from a beekeeper, a dealer/packer, or a supermarket.”

    I judged at the Shamrock Open in Raleigh yesterday. There was a Mead made with “Eastern North Carolina Spring Harvest ’07 Wildflower honey”. As soon as I tasted the first sip, I said “I am wrong – you can tell fresh honey.” This Mead received a score of 40 in spite of being immature – it was that good.

    So I stand corrected: You can tell fresh honey from processed honey.

  6. Erroll Post author

    In my response to Eric, I mentioned comparing raw clover to clover honey from Costco. The raw honey was no better, either out of the bucket or as mead. I believed the raw honey to be fresh (it was minimally processed, not heated above 120F, and had not yet crystallized), but I didn’t ask and don’t know. So it’s possible that I wasn’t comparing fresh honey, but I think it might be possible that you were not noticing the freshness of the honey, but some other variable (like floral source, other additive, method).

    If freshness really makes that much difference, though, it would be worth paying up for. This can be tested, and if the impact is as big as you say, it should be tested. For that to work, we have to agree on what we’re testing.

    So, is honey “fresh” if it’s extracted and sits in jugs for a few months? Or is it only fresh if you get it within a few days of extraction? Is it possible that some honey, in the hive, will not be fresh because it sat there since the spring and the beekeeper didn’t harvest until the fall? Must you then rush home and make mead with it right away?

    Two meads made the same way at the same time, both made with the same kind of honey, one fresh the other not: that’s how to test it. Are you up for it?


  7. Wiglaf the Mighty


    After reading Mr. Adam’s comments to you, I am sorry that it seemed that he pinned all those comments about the honey that I made, on you. I was the one that added the ” corn syrup ” argument. Also, I was the one that commented on going to the Mead Festival and having the judge tell me about the honey used. For Mr. Adam’s comment on the mead and being the judge of it coming from a beekeeper, packer/dealer this is the point that was trying to be made: When you get the honey from a store and pay a lower price for it that is great…but you….yourself personally don’t have control of how the product is processed. But, if you pay the higher price for the honey from a beekeeper and YOU process and pasteurize it yourself…you are in control and can be assured of a great product. Also on a side note about mead/honey…I have found out that honey from a beekeeper and then worked my self…the mead after aging had great floral notes than the honey store bought. It is like putting gas in your car…your car will run just fine on regular….but put in premium…and it runs much better.
    Erroll, I do appoligise for getting this started…

  8. Erroll Post author

    Hello Eric,

    I don’t think that anyone here has anything to apologize for. It looks like the three of us each have a slightly different view on honey, and as long as we keep acting like adults that’s ok. For my part, I think I’m always learning. That’s as true today as it was twenty years ago and will be twenty years form now. It’s a big part of why I blog and encourage comments.

    I’ve enjoyed hearing for you and Dick!


  9. RyanTJ

    I’d like to see a couple certified organic prices also if you can. I know my local organic producer sells perennial honey in bulk for $2/lb in Rochester MN.

  10. Erroll Post author

    Hi Ryan,

    Dutch Gold sells organic honey in bulk, but they don’t specify the floral source. I guess I’d call it “organic wildflower,” and at $108 for a 5-gallon pail ($1.80/lb) its about the same price as their wildflower. Millers Honey also offers organic honey in bulk at about the same price ($1.73/lb) as Dutch Gold. It’s described as a “light amber blend,” but is significantly more expensive than their wildflower ($1.43/lb).

    I’ll see about including these organic honeys in future price reports – thanks for the suggestion!


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