Selling Honey in Wisconsin

​​Few people may realize that “America’s Dairyland” also produces another sweet delight that is in no way related to dairy—honey. 

The bees stayed busy in Wisconsin producing more than 2.25 million pounds of honey in 2020 (ranking 14th) worth more than $7.3 million.  

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.

You don’t need a license if:

  • You extract, package and sell only your own honey from your own bees and apiaries,


  • You don’t process the honey; facilitating packaging by straining or heating or allowing honey to crystalize to make spun or creamed honey, even if using starters from your own honey, is not considered processing 

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

You need a license if:

  • You gather honey from others for bottling, packaging or processing, including pollen, propolis, royal jelly, and/or comb honey
  • You process your own or others’ honey by adding color, flavors or other ingredients, including whipping with air

  • You process your own or others' honey into other products, such as candy or whipped honey.

Type of license:

  • If you sell 25% or more of your products wholesale (to distributers rather than directly to customers) you will need a food processing plant license.
  • If 25% or more of sales are retail (direct to consumers) you will need a retail food establishment license. 

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 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 sections about facilities and equipment in either ATCP 70 (Food Processing Plants) or ATCP 75 Appendix (Retail Food Establishments) for additional requirements for these licenses.

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 processing plant or retail food establishment.

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.

Wisconsin standards are outlined in ATCP 87.

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 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

Find out more about USDA standards for comb honey or extracted honey.

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, or 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.​