Bees & Honey

Selling Honey

 

Food safety, grading and labeling laws may seem complicated to beekeepers who are hobbyists or just trying to earn a little extra money. Here are answers to some of the most common questions we get. Before you set up your facilities, be sure to contact your local town, village, or city and county governments to find out if there are local ordinances you need to meet to process and/or sell your honey. Farmer’s markets may have their own rules, too.

What kind of license do I need?
What kind of facilities and equipment do I need?
What is grading?
What are the standards for Wisconsin grades?
What does my label need to say?

What kind of license do I need?

You don’t need a license if:

  • You extract, package and sell only your own honey from your own bees, and
  • You don’t process the honey or you process it only minimally by straining, heating, and/or making spun or creamed honey using starters from your own honey, and
  • You sell your products directly to your customers out of your home, over the internet, or from a farmer’s market. This includes commercial customers using your honey as an ingredient, such as a brewery.

Even if you don’t need a license, you do need to follow the other regulations discussed here.

You need a retail license if:

  • You gather honey from others for bottling, packaging or processing, or
  • You process your own or others’ honey by adding color, flavors or other ingredients, and
  • You sell less than 25 percent of your products wholesale (to distributors rather than directly to customers).

You need a food processor license if:

  • You gather honey from others for bottling, packaging or processing, or
  • You process your own or others’ honey by adding color, flavors or other ingredients, and
  • You sell 25 percent or more of your products wholesale (to distributors rather than directly to customers).

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What kind of facilities and equipment are required?

Whether or not you require a license, if you’re going to sell your honey, you must have a separate room dedicated to your food business with commercial-grade equipment. This means you can’t extract, process, or bottle your honey in the same kitchen where you cook your family meals, or in any room that’s part of your normal living space. Because honey is not a potentially hazardous food, we’re not looking for operating-room sterility, but you do need to have equipment in good repair and maintain good sanitation in the place where you handle honey. Some specifics:

  • This room must have washable floors, walls, and ceilings.
  • You must have adequate light to see well enough to keep things sanitary.
  • The room must be properly ventilated to prevent steam and condensation and to keep exhaust air from blowing onto the honey.
  • All the doors and windows must be well-screened so birds, insects and rodents can’t enter.
  • You must have a three-compartment sink or NSF-approved dishwasher for washing your equipment and utensils. (NSF is a non-profit, non-government organization that develops standards and certifies products for public health)
  • Equipment such as extractors, stoves, sinks, tables, shelving and storage containers must be easily cleanable and in good repair.
  • Utensils like pans, bowls, knives and spoons must be smooth, impervious, and easily cleaned. Just about all utensils manufactured these days meet this requirement.
  • You must o keep your facilities and equipment clean and in good repair.
  • Honey that you sell must be in new containers, and if it’s comb honey, in new sections.

Read the entire rule that covers food processing plants here.

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What is grading?

Grading is not about food safety – it’s about quality. It’s voluntary, but if you do choose to grade your honey, you need to follow these regulations whether or not you are licensed as either a food processor or food retailer.

You can grade your honey according to Wisconsin standards, U.S. Department of Agriculture standards, or not at all. But if you do, it’s an all-or-nothing proposition. If you sell part of a year’s crop as graded honey, you must sell it all as graded. The only exception is that you can sell ungraded honey from your own premises even if you’ve sold graded honey at a farmer’s market. Grade standards don’t apply if you process your honey by adding flavoring, coloring, or other ingredients, or by creaming or whipping.

You do your own grading, based on Wisconsin standards listed in ATCP 157, available here.

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What are the standards for Wisconsin grades?

There are two Wisconsin grades for cut comb and chunk honey: Wisconsin Fancy White and Wisconsin No. 1. Comb and extracted honey can also be graded Wisconsin No. 2. The standards for Wisconsin grades are listed briefly below.

Comb honey – Wisconsin Fancy White must:

  • Be under 35 on the Pfund color scale
  • Weigh at least 12½ oz. net or 13½ oz. gross
  • Be free of propolis or other stains
  • Be firmly attached and not projecting beyond the wood, uniformly colored, evenly capped and entirely sealed except in outside cells.

Comb honey – Wisconsin No. 1 must:

  • Weigh at least 11 oz. net or 12 oz. gross
  • Be free from propolis or other stains
  • Be firmly attached and not projecting beyond the wood, and entirely sealed except no more than 6 cells on each side in addition to outside cells
  • Have no more than slight travel stain and surface irregularity, with no more than 10 cells on each side with honey that’s a different color than the one listed on the label

Comb honey – Wisconsin No. 2 is good quality comb honey that falls below the standards for Fancy White or No. 1.

Cut comb honey – Wisconsin Fancy White must:

  • Be cut to uniform size
  • Be free of open cells, weeping or bruised surface or wet edges
  • Be wrapped in transparent material to prevent leakage and packed in a container (which can be open at the top)
  • Meet all other requirements of Wisconsin Fancy White comb honey except weight

Cut comb honey – Wisconsin No. 1 must:

  • Meet all the requirements for Wisconsin Fancy White cut comb honey
  • Meet all the requirements except weight for Wisconsin No. 1 comb honey

Extracted honey – Wisconsin Fancy White must:

  • Weigh at least 11 lbs. 12 oz. per gallon at 68 degrees F.
  • Be clean, clear with no air bubbles and other substances in suspension, and free of honeydew, foreign odors and flavors
  • Heat-treated to prevent fermentation and delay crystallization

Extracted honey – Wisconsin No. 1 must:

  • Weigh at least 11 lbs. 10 oz. per gallon at 68 degrees F.
  • Be clean, clear with no air bubbles and other substances in suspension, and free of honeydew, foreign odors and flavors

Extracted honey – Wisconsin No. 2 must

  • Weight at least 11 lbs. 8 oz. per gallon at 68 degrees F.
  • Be fairly clean, but may contain a few air bubbles or edible substances in suspension
  • Have flavor or odor unaffected or only slightly affected by overheating or other means.

Chunk Honey – Wisconsin Fancy White must:

  • Contain Wisconsin Fancy White comb honey and Wisconsin Fancy White extracted honey
  • Contain half its net weight in comb honey that is in one or two pieces, with no broken pieces

Chunk honey – Wisconsin No. 1 must:

  • Contain Wisconsin No. 1 comb honey and Wisconsin No. 1 extracted honey
  • Contain half its net weight in comb honey that is in one or two pieces, with no broken pieces

For information about USDA standards for comb honey, click here. For USDA extracted honey standards, click here.

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What does my label need to say?

Your label needs to include:

  • Your name or your business name and address, including city, state, and ZIP code. You don’t need a street address as long as it’s available in the local phone directory.
  • Net weight of contents (contents only, not the container). For honey that you package uniformly, you need to list the weight in pounds/ounces and in metric measure. For products packaged in random weights, like comb honey, you can list the weight in either pounds/ounces or metric measure.
  • Grade, including the word “Ungraded” if that applies
  • Color of honey if it is Wisconsin No. 1
  • Ingredients if you have added anything
You can label your honey by predominant flavor or main source if people in the business could clearly distinguish the flavor or source. You can’t name more than one flavor or source, or name the honey by season.

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