Alfalfa, Canola, Dandelion, Borage… It’s Not Just Honey

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Alberta honey producers claim their product has has some unique characteristics, and there’s now a study to prove it.

Shirzad Chunara, development officer with the Functional Foods and Natural Health Products branch of Alberta Agriculture, presented the results of the study to the Alberta Beekeepers Commission Annual General meeting. The study which began in March 2008 and was completed in October 2009, compared characteristics of Alberta and international honeys.

The study only included nine samples so it’s not statistically publishable, said Chunara.

“However, it’s great if you’re looking at adding some information to your marketing strategy and that’s partially why we have done this,” she said. “We’re hoping that in the future, people will look at this study and go further.”

The study was funded by Alberta Crop Industry Development and involved researchers from Alberta Agriculture, Brock University and Phytovox. Varieties tested include six Alberta monofloral honeys, one Alberta mixed floral honey, one Argentinian honey and one sample of Manuka honey from New Zealand. The Alberta monoflorals included dandelion, canola, alfalfa, borage, clover and alsike and clover honey.

All Alberta honeys tested possessed antioxidant and antibacterial activities, said Chunara.

The light-coloured Alberta honeys had the least antioxidant activity. However, clover and borage honeys contained the highest amounts of antibacterial activity, as shown by the hydrogen peroxide content.

No chlorinated pesticides or chlorinated hydrocarbons were found in Alberta honey, said Chunara. “This means our honey is clean. We believed that, but now we have a study that you can put on your website and share with your sellers,” she said.

Bees do wander…

Many of the Alberta honeys had several components in common, but there were few similarities between the Alberta and Manuka honey. Many of the monofloral honeys revealed that the honey came from mixed floral sources.”Bees do have some choice and we can’t control where they go,” said Chunara.

Alberta monofloral honeys have many things in common, while international honeys have several characteristics which set them apart. The two international honeys were much stronger and darker. The Argentinian honey had a high amount of hydrogen

Shirzad Chunara, development officer with Functional Foods and Natural Health products branch of Alberta Agriculture, compared several Alberta and international honeys. – Alexis Kienlen

peroxide, indicating antibacterial activity, but the Manuka did not have as much. Hydrogen peroxide is just one of the indicators of antibacterial activity in honey, but there are many other components that need to be examined, said Chunara.

Clover and canola had the highest concentrations of most of the compounds found in Alberta monofloral honeys, she said.

“All honey is not created equally. As beekeepers, you know that, but now we have studies that can be shared with your consumers and your buyers. These studies prove that there are vast differences in flavour compounds, colour characteristics and flavour characteristics,” she said. “There’s merit to marketing monofloral honey and even country-specific varieties.”

Canadians could focus on marketing their honey based on the floral variety, she said. “These differences don’t necessarily indicate that one honey is better but identify how each product is truly unique,” she said. “We need to start marketing based on this.”

Beekeepers who wish to obtain a complete version of the study should contact the Alberta Beekeepers Commission.

About the author


Alexis Kienlen

Alexis Kienlen lives in Edmonton and has been writing for Alberta Farmer since 2008. Originally from Saskatoon, Alexis is also the author of two collections of poetry, a biography, and a novel called "Mad Cow."



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