the economics of hobby beekeeping

Honey Bees

Remember the book “The $64 tomato”? Well, I did some calculating to figure out how much a jar of honey was costing me to produce. The bottom line – it’s an expensive bottle of honey.

I figure a pound of honey costs me $27.63 to produce. A little better than that expensive tomato, but still a pretty costly jar of honey.

Now, I’m a second year bee keeper, so I had a lot of set up costs and they won’t be recurring. My set up cost $918. Recurring costs are $640. I added in my time at $30 hr. I’ve spent about 80 hours producing my honey valuing my time at $2310.

Another way of figuring my cost since it’s a hobby is to omit my time, which of course is all fun, not work. Also, I can omit set up costs. Now it’s much better: a pound of honey is $4.57.

I’m impressed that local bee keepers can sell their honey at $9 to $11 a pound. I sure they are much more efficient than me.

I’m selling my honey for $10 a one pound jar, and for $7 a half pound jar. I’ve sold nearly 100 lbs, so I’ve made over $1000. After 2 years, I’ve covered my set up costs. Going forward, I really should charge based on my recurring expenses and my time. That’s $21.07 a pound – I don’t think I’d sell anything at $20/lb. I need to forget my hours or get more efficient. I could probably go to $12 a pound. It’s very special honey after all! It does taste very good.

6 Comments. Leave new

  • Maybe there is some offset to the cost based on the value the bees bring to your garden and yard? There's probably some clever accounting that you could use to bring this into a better parity?

  • We buy from a local bee keeper. They sell it for $10.00 for 2 pounds!

  • Thanks for posting this – I love this kind of data!

  • super interesting! i always wonder this kind of thing about the money i invest in my garden each year vs buying… but- that said- i'd have it no other way! unlike just about every other activity in our lives, hobbies aren't supposed to be sensible just fulfilling 🙂

  • What size jar does one pound of honey fill? Our community garden sells the honey produced in the garden for $4/quarter pint.

  • Honey is measured by it's weight, whereas canning jars are measured by fluid volume. (US fluid volume is based on wine. In the UK, imperial fluid volume is based on water). Argh. They don't make it easy!

    Since honey is 1.67 times heavier than wine, there are some calculations to figure out the answer.

    I buy 1 pound honey jars. They hold 16 ounces by weight of honey. I assume the quarter pint jars you mention are measured by US fluid volume. A pound of honey is 10.67 US fluid ounces, so your quarter pint jars (4 liquid oz) hold 6 ounces of honey. One pound of honey would fill 2/3 of your US fluid pint jars. It would almost fill a 12 oz jar.

    So… at your rate of $4/US fluid quarter pint, my 1 pound honey jars would be $10.70 – phew! After all that, we charge pretty much the same.

    (mathematicians- please check my numbers here!)


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