The Price we pay for Honey

How much should honey cost? One of the biggest concerns I had when first selling honey was not overpricing it nor just ‘giving it away’.

It takes a lot of effort to manage well-productive beehives. And there will always be those potential customers that complain that honey is ‘too expensive.’

Today I’m going to show you the elements that determine the price we pay and charge for honey. Then I’ll give an example of how I price my honey.

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beekeeper's market table filled with honey jars
Here are 3 different varieties of honey. The one in the middle is rare and priced accordingly. Demand became fairly high. Photo by Jonathan Hargus©

The 3 Elements that determine the price for honey

Element #1- The varietal source

The demand for specific varieties

When it comes to honey varieties, most people either have a favorite or they think there’s something called ‘regular honey’ because they’re accustomed to grocery store ‘honey.’

Orange Blossom honey for example, is quite popular and has a large supply. Literally, thousands of barrels are made most years by hundreds of beekeepers. As a result, the price for this honey is quite low but it is well-known.

Then there’s a rare honey variety called Fireweed. Fireweed is a wildflower and relies on wildfires in order to be able to propogate. I have no experience with this variety but I imagine that it doesn’t produce consistently from year to year.

It’s rarity makes it a high dollar honey, as it should be, as it is less-known and in smaller supply.

Element #2- The quality

Is it raw or processed?

“I don’t think you’ll get any argument that raw honey has a much higher quality than processed honey.”

It is important for potential customers to realize that higher quality honey generally comes from small, local beekeepers. The honey found in grocery stores is most likely processed and of zero quality in my opinion.

Bottling companies heat the honey and as a result the vitamins and any other health benefits are destroyed.

Is it chemical free?

Commercial beekeepers often battle in-hive pests and disease using harsh chemical warfare. These chemicals inevitably find their way into the hive’s honey and eventually your bottle of honey.

Hobby beekeepers on the other hand, for the most part, try to find natural methods to manage their hives. The result is a pure, raw and natural sweetener that convert even those who don’t think they like honey.

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Is it adulterated?

Commercial beekeeping practices often involve feeding their bees pesticide-laden high fructose corn syrup. And yes, this finds its way into your honey. This is called Adulteration.

Some beekeepers adulterate on purpose to make more money and many others adulterate unintentionally. It’s a tough game to play in the commercial league.

Hobby beekeepers produce some of the finest, unadulterated honey there is, especially local, small-batch producers. These are the guys and gals we want to support and do business with.

commercial beekeeping apiary
Commercially produced honey often has a high count of biological organisms in it; meaning that they extract brood frames along with their honey. Photo by Jonathan Hargus©

Element #3- Ethical factors

Was it sustainably harvested?

Commercial methods usually strip hives of every ounce of honey in large quantities which is why they have to feed something back to them to prevent starvation. This is where high fructose corn syrup comes into play.

Small beekeepers who choose to educate themselves about sustainable harvesting methods support not only potential customers with an ethically harvested, small-batch product, but they also support happy, healthy beehives as well as the environment.

Two unknown factors about the price of honey

I feel that it is our educational duty to help inform the public about the hard work that goes into making a single jar of honey.

Beekeepers must maintain healthy hives for months in order to harvest a crop. They also deal with getting stung, funding equipment, tools, gear, etc., and replacing dying beehives.

But there’s ONE thing that does not go into figuring the price we charge for a bottle of honey: Labor costs. If beekeepers included their labor in calculating the price for a jar of honey, no one could afford it other than the rich elite.

Secret #1- It takes months to make a jar of honey

In my beekeeping experience, a growing hive, meaning one that started small, needs the first honey/nectar flow of the year in order to grow and build.

It isn’t until the second honey/nectar flow of the year, climate permitting, that a beekeeper can harvest from that growing hive. So it literally takes months to make a jar of honey.

I calculate at least 6 months in my area of the Southern Appalachians, under ideal conditions.

Secret #2- Labor is not calculated in the price

As stated earlier, labor is not calculated in the price for honey. Generally speaking, honey is priced in a specific area depending on the area’s going rate price per pound and the cost of the container. That’s it!

local beekeeper roadside honey sign
Small, local beekeepers like to be creative with their work and help their customers to have a pleasant experience. Photo by Jonathan Hargus©

So here’s how it is…

Basically, a higher quality honey made in small batches is going to be and should be higher priced.

A lower quality ‘honey’ made in larger batches is going to be and should be cheaper.

So here’s how I price my honey:

  1. I find out what other beekeepers in the local area are charging per pound
  2. I determine if there is a high demand for that honey; if so then it will cost more
  3. I determine the quality of the honey.

For example- I’m about to harvest Sourwood honey. It is rare and in high demand. Other beekeepers will be charging no less than $15 per pound. Online, the lower quality Sourwoods (mixed or blended with spring honey) starts at $15 per pound.

The highest quality Sourwoods top out around $30 per pound. My crop will be no less than $20 per pound because it is of high quality but I don’t want to price myself out of the reach of people’s wallets either.

sourwood in bloom
Sourwood tree blossoms. Photo by Jonathan Hargus©

Remember this- People generally don’t buy want they need, they buy what they want.

Fortunately we all have the choice of supporting local or commercial businesses for certain products. And it’s also our health at stake when it comes to lower quality honey.

If anyone thinks that honey is priced too high, it is important to remember that it’s actually not priced high enough. Honey is fairly cheap when you consider that the beekeeper’s time, energy and effort are not figured into the price for a jar of honey.

It’s also fairly cheap when you consider the plethora of health benefits that pure, raw honey offers in return.

As beekeepers, we must inform and educate the general public about our operation and the quality of our honey.

As consumers, we must keep in mind the hard work it takes to make a jar of honey and that we don’t have to get stung in the process.

It turns out the old saying is true, “You get what you pay for.”

Don’t forget to check out my new children’s picture book, Weeds are Wildflowers, Let them Bee! Available through

~Weeds are Wildflowers, let them Bee!~

Jonathan Hargus/Honey Snob

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