Skip to Content

Honey Grades: A Complete Guide

Honey Grades: A Complete Guide

In this article we will take you through everything there is to know about honey grades, including what the best grade of honey is and how the different grades are unique.

In brief, a honey grade is a simple rating for the quality of a particular sample of honey.

But, there is a lot more to it. Dive right into this article to discover more about the world of honey and honey grading!

Where Does Honey Come From?

It begins its journey as flower nectar that is collected by bees. No surprise there, right?  Inside the honeycomb of the bees, simple sugars are stored. 

Because of the design of the honeycomb, as well as the fanning of air into it from the wings of the bees, evaporation of moisture takes place. The result of this is the sweet liquid we all know and love as honey.

What is a Grade as Far as Honey is Concerned?

It is a means in which the quality of the honey is ascertained. It does NOT represent the nutritional value of the honey. 

Instead, it is used to judge the clarity and flavor. Anything less than a grade C is considered to be below standard.  Grade A is the best quality of honey someone can get. Much of the honey we find in the grocery stores is either grade A or B.

What Is a Beekeeper’s Role in Honey Production?

A beekeeper, aka an apiary, manages colonies of honeybees for the express purpose of producing honey.  The beekeeper has a secondary role of providing pollination services. Part of his or her job is to create hives, replace malfunctioning combs, and producing hive products.

In addition to honey, these hives also emit pollen and beeswax. Most consumers are familiar with all three products even if they do not personally purchase them. 

So you see, bees are not really an annoyance to humans. Rather, they play an important role, especially for people who love honey. 

Why Is It Necessary to Grade Honey?

It is important because honey producers need to know when their product is safe for human consumption. Not only do people buy jars of honey for personal consumption, but scores of bakers use it for flavoring or as a major ingredient for a lot of their goods. 

Without knowing what grade a batch of honey is, if it is poor quality, it could make people sick. That is why they will not put anything less than a grade C on the market. 

What Other Criteria is Used to Grade the Honey?

Besides flavor, aroma, and clarity, there are additional criteria used. So, what are they? Its moisture content, and the presence of any defects in the honey. Although the color is defined, it is not a factor in determining its grade. 

Another important thing looked for by the USDA is the country of origin of the particular container of honey. If this is missing, the ever-tough agency will not allow it to be sold anywhere in the United States. 

USDA Grading for Two Types of Honey

We’ll bet you didn’t know there were two primary types of honey that get graded by the USDA, right? Allow us to explain them.

  1. Strained honey – any extraneous particles that can be found in honey are strained out of it.  Examples are parts of the comb, or defects. Other particles are not strained out of the honey. This would include pollen grains, tiny bubbles of air, and fine particles like dust or sand.
  2. Filtered honey – any of the above-listed particles are completely removed from the honey. This method is preferred by customers who do not wish to find anything floating around in their honey.
A bee sucking nectar from a honeycomb

The Different Grades of Honey

Now we come to the heart of our article. That is telling you all about the different grades of honey.  We describe what each grade represents and what it means for consumers. This section is all-inclusive. We will tell you about the bad grades as well as the good ones. This way you will know what to look for when you are buying honey.

The Good Grades: A through C

These are the grades you want to look for in the supermarket. Any one of these is good for human consumption; however, grade A is the best of all.

Grade A Honey Basic Information

This is the finest quality of honey and is a dark amber color. Most of the grocery store chains and natural food market establishments will have this kind of honey for sale. Although the dark amber coloring will appear more ominous than the lighter amber, the darker the color, the better the honey. This advice comes from the experts.

Grade A Honey IS Healthy

It is designated as grade A because it is the best kind available. Experienced and established judges of honey say it contains the best clarity and flavor. It has a minimum score of 90 points after the rating process is complete. It is also the most healthy out of all the grades of honey. 

Grade B Honey Basic Facts

This is the amber-colored honey most people are familiar with. Going back to your childhood days, this is the color of honey that Winnie the Pooh ate in the famed animated stories. It is also the kind you will find in smaller stores like independent grocery stores, health food stores, and farmer’s markets.

Grade B Honey Is Fine Too

Even though this color of honey has not made it to grade A, it is still fine to enjoy. You might be more apt to get the kids to try it if the color is not too dark. They most likely have seen Winnie the Pooh too. 

This is the second-best quality of honey on the market throughout the ages. The judges say it scores at least 80 points in the grading system. It is completely safe to use as a sweetener or in your baking regimen. 

What Are the Differences Between Grade A and Grade B Honey?

Besides the color, the grade A is the type that meets the stringent requirements of the United States Department of Agriculture. Grade B also meets their requirements, but the judges from the USDA have determined that the batch of honey that made grade A is of a superior quality.

That said, if you buy honey that has been officially graded as a B, you are still buying a good quality of it.  It has a reasonably good flavor and aroma to go along with its color. It is a little less sweet than the grade A which is another reason it may be more appealing to your kids. 

Grade C Notable Facts

This is very light-colored honey. Technically it is still good quality.  However, the USDA has determined it fails to meet the standards good enough to be sold to the public. If a beekeeper were to try to sell grade C to commercial buyers, he or she would likely end up in trouble.

What Would Happen If You Bought Grade C Honey?

The consistency of the honey would be poor as is its color. It has not been properly fermented either.  The result of these problems would be a very poor tasting batch of honey.

If someone bought this kind of honey as their very first sample of the product, they would be highly disappointed. Odds are good they probably would never buy it again. 

Honey that is Less Than a Grade C

You can liken this to school grades whereby anything less than a C is considered failing. It is the same with honey grades. It is bad enough when someone tries to sell a grade C of honey, let alone when a batch of it is not even that high.

If you come across someone trying to commercially sell a grade C or lower quality of honey, you might wish to make note of who they are. Then report them to the authorities or the USDA themselves.

A glass of milk and honey on a table

So, What Does Substandard Honey Look Like?

The color is a dead giveaway. It will be almost, if not totally, white in color. Its consistency is also very poor.  If you tried to eat honey of this inferior quality, it would taste disgusting. 

A reputable beekeeper will dump this quality of honey right in the trash.

It is possible that some honey producers would try to pass this off as good honey in the private market.  Perhaps at flea markets or over the Internet. 

That is why it is imperative you know what a substandard quality of honey looks like. Hence, this is the reason for this article. You want a grade A or a grade B. Anything less than that is not good by any standards.

What Is Raw Honey?

It is a type of honey that only undergoes straining before bottling it. When produced in its raw form, honey contains plenty of nutrients and antioxidants. 

Honey that is bought from your local store shelves, such as grade A or grade B that is NOT raw will often lack these beneficial ingredients. While there is nothing wrong with the store-bought variety, they will not be as nutritious as raw honey.

What Is Pure Honey?

It is honey like that which comes from the Indian company, Dabur, that is completely and 100% free from any adulteration. It must go through a strict NMR testing process before it is sold to the public. Dabur of India has this testing equipment right in their own laboratory. 

It typically comes with a statement of authenticity that reveals all facts to the consumer. 

Which Type of Honey Is the Healthiest?

That would be the raw honey we just spoke of. It is the healthiest because all of the associated nutrients are still present within it. The primary nutrients are:

  • Vitamin C that comes from ascorbic acid
  • Glucose oxidase
  • Flavonoids
  • Phenolic acids

Other Honey Brands Worth Trying

Each of the following brands is considered to be exceptionally pure honey. They may cost a little more and be harder to find but are worth the effort and every penny. 

  1. Dabur Honey (just described above)
  2. Saffola Honey
  3. INDIGENOUS Honey
  4. Anveshan Raw Organic Multi-floral Honey
  5. Forever Living Natural Bee Honey

All about Flavored Honeys

It is important to talk about flavored honeys. There are some producers who specialize in flavored honeys. If you come across any in a farmer’s market or speciality shop, you should not think he or she is trying to mislead you. They are all perfectly acceptable and many are delicious.

In actuality, there are hundreds of different flavors of honey in existence. For the purpose of brevity in this article, we shall just list several of those with a desirable flavor.  A complete guide to honey flavors can be found on the USDA website and/or their full reports on honey.

  • Mesquite
  • Orange
  • Sage
  • Sweet clover
  • Raspberry
  • Fireweed
  • Milkweed
  • Cotton
  • Sourwood
  • Wild cherry
  • Basswood
  • Star thistle

What Is Medical Grade Honey?

Over the past 4000 years, it was common for some civilizations to use honey for medical purposes. These purposes included the treatment of wounds and as an antibiotic. Today some cultures and individuals still do this.

The use of honey is especially prevalent amongst people who prefer natural healing methods to drugs and official medicinal treatments. Medical and health experts say that honey, particularly in its raw and pure forms, can effectively be used to treat surgical wounds, the swelling around harsh wounds, bee stings, and even diabetes. 

Honey has been known to produce moist healing environments which is extremely beneficial to the proper healing of wounds. Medicinal uses for honey continue even now in the year 2022. If you dislike the idea of using drugs in your body, ask your doctor about honey. 

Is It a Good Idea to Buy Honey?

Absolutely yes! It is delicious and serves many different purposes. The key is to understand what makes a container of honey great and what does not. 

This information is not only pertinent to consumers, but also to those beekeepers who produce honey for a living. As long as everyone follows our guidelines, they will be able to enjoy honey for ions. As the saying goes, try it, you will like it.