Monday, March 28, 2011

Honey, I ate the... honey?

Many times I've been putting together my daily vegan meal, only to find out that a key component of it contained a hidden animal product: honey. I was inclined to ignore this -- after all, it comes from bugs, and it's not like they're hooked up to milking machines or confined in factory farms... or are they? Then again, I'm only eating vegan once a day (officially) and to slack off seemed a little too wimpy even for someone as, uh, wimpy as myself.

I've found honey in: bread, granola, granola bars, salad dressing, and crackers. Especially bread -- I've had to pass on plenty of yummy-looking organic loaves at Whole Foods because of their honey component. (I also found it in plenty of non-vegan foods, like yogurt.)

Now, I wonder if companies are using honey instead of sugar because sugar has become such a dirty word (for good reason -- Kris Carr, in her new book Crazy Sexy Diet, likens it to crack) and honey has a natural, almost good-for-you image (think Burt's Bee's) that can easily make us forget that, at the end of the day, it's just another form of sugar?

A quick research session in Google Library turned up plenty of good reasons (other than the obvious, it's not that great to eat sugar ones) not to eat honey, for both dietary and environmental reasons. Turns out, commercial honey farms are just as terrible for bees as factory farming is for cows, pigs and chickens. Should we really be surprised? And even if you don't care about whether or not bees feel pain, or suffer when they're fed corn syrup to replace the honey that's been harvested from them, it seems such a little thing to give up.

I'm curious how other people feel about this issue. Do you agree with Daniel Engber, who wrote in Slate that "to debate the question in public only makes the vegan movement seem silly and dogmatic," or does it make sense for us to try to combat the idea that it's a harmless and maybe even healthy product?


  1. WOOPS, looks like you've covered this topic thoroughly, sorry for the explanation in my recipe! I'm just reading forward now!

  2. Nice post! I was wondering this as well. Honey keeps popping up everywhere, like you said: in bread, cereal, etc... Also check out Elisha's post on the topic here: