Faking It? Vegan Honey

On a recent supermarket visit, I noticed that meat-free mince now finds a place amongst original animal minces in the meat aisle. This got me thinking about the increased popularity of plant-based diets over the past five years or so, and with this thought in mind, alternative products seemed to pop out at me from every corner of the store.

Veganism is more than a meat-free diet, it’s a way of life that involves not eating, consuming or using products derived from animals. This includes dairy, eggs and leather. Honey, however, is a more complicated elimination, and is one of the ‘hot debates’ in the vegan community. Bees produce honey by using the nectar of flowers as their core ingredient. They do this for themselves and thrive on the process. Honey, therefore, might seem a legitimate inclusion in the vegan diet, especially as natural beekeepers (like myself) keep our animals with their wellbeing at the forefront of our minds.

Despite bees producing honey for themselves, and natural beekeepers only taking excess honey for consumption, the general consensus is that honey is not a vegan-friendly product. Honey has been referred to as the ”dairy of the insect world”. The Vegan Society states that, as honey production utilises the bee’s natural processes, it falls under the category of ‘exploitation’. While some vegans may accept eating honey that has been harvested from an abundant supply in the nest, the vast majority of vegans will not include honey in their diets.

So what is the solution to a diet without honey? Honey alternatives of course, with new spellings like “hunny”. However, farmers in Australia have recently raised concern about the language used around animal-product substitutes such a milk, honey and meat. These groups are disputing the fact that alternative products are riding on the coattails of real foods. This argument increased in the past month, when a company in Byron Bay started selling bee-product-free Vegan Honey. Branded as honey, the product contains no honey at all, and is instead made of a combination of natural ingredients including coconut sap and apple juice concentrate. The Weekly Times reported that the NSW Food Authority has directed the manufacturer to change the labelling due to breaches of the food standards code.

What are your thoughts, do you think language such as “honey” and “milk” should only be attributed to its traditional forms? Does selling a honey-alternative as honey itself harm the industry? Is this alternative misleading?

Vegan Honey

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