Is Honey Vegan? Your Questions Answered

Veganism is a lifestyle that aims to reduce animal cruelty and exploitation. Most vegans are also passionate about reducing environmental impacts, as many animal-based industries take a heavy toll on the environment. Vegans eschew all animal based or derived products, including food as well as non-edible goods such as leather and wool.

honey and figs

Many people are curious whether the definition of veganism extends to insects, including products made by insects like unfiltered honey. In this guide, we will explain whether or not honey is vegan and how to consider the environmental impacts of your sweetener choices.

Is Honey Vegan? Why Most Vegans Do Not Eat It

Because honey is created by insects, honey does not qualify for the vegan designation. In order to be vegan, a food cannot contain any animal parts or byproducts, and cannot involve animals in its production process either. Honey falls into the latter category because flower nectar cannot be converted into honey without the help of bees.

bee on a honeycomb

Because of this, most vegans do not eat honey, though a few of them still might incorporate it into their diets. Some vegetarians also eat honey, alongside eggs and other animal byproducts. However, simply because a food is vegan does not mean that it is automatically free from all concerns of environmental impact. In the next section, we will talk more about how choosing an ethically sourced sweetener is more complicated than you might think.

Are Honey Alternatives All Worry-Free?

Many vegans turn to plant-based honey alternatives, such as agave nectar and maple syrup, believing that they will have less environmental impact than honey. Unfortunately, some of these plant-based sugar substitutes have significant environmental impacts even though they do not derive from animals in any way. As the demand for these plant-based sugar substitutes increases, commercial farming of them grows, increasing the environmental impact even further.

For example, agave nectar is a very popular honey substitute in the vegan community. Agave syrup is derived from agave plants, the same kinds of plants that tequila is made from. To increase plant turnover, farmers harvest plants before they fully mature and bloom, meaning that the plants do not produce seeds. Instead, the farmers have to rely on clones to produce the next crop of agave. The increase in demand has also forced small producers out of business, so more and more agave syrup is made by large commercial operations that cannot maintain the same level of quality control.

Agave syrup may be plant-based, but that does not mean that it does not have an environmental impact. How environmentally friendly your agave syrup is depends a lot on the individual farm and processor. Just like not all agave syrup is created equal, not all honey is created equal either. Keep reading to learn what to look for when shopping for environmentally friendly honey.

Choosing an Environmentally Friendly Honey

Generally speaking, any product made by a large commercial manufacturer is likely to have a greater negative environmental impact — not to mention that it is also likely to be highly processed. Instead, prioritize honey harvest from small apiaries that are passionate about maintaining the health of the hive and bees. The smaller the apiary, the more quality control they will be able to maintain over the bees. The smaller size allows the apiary to pay more attention to the health of the bees and to avoid exploitative practices used by high-volume commercial operations.

Ideally, you should also look for honey that has not been highly processed or filtered, such as the raw honeys made by Brightland. These honeys have the most unique flavors and also the highest levels of beneficial compounds, boosting your health as well as the flavors of your food and beverages. Unlike some other sweetener alternatives, honey does not need to be highly processed in order to be edible, so take advantage of that and buy raw, unfiltered honey. (Learn more about “What is raw honey?” in our guide.)

brightland honey

Ready to add some ethically sourced honey to your pantry? Check out our raw honey duo The Couplet, which features two unique flavors of honey that are sure to please your taste buds. 

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