The Sweetness of Honey
Milwaukee’s Kallas Farm
Honey is not, as some
people think, bee poo. Quite the opposite, in fact. In the hive, female worker
bees ingest and process nectar in their “honey stomachs” multiple times. After
a final regurgitation, the bees store the processed nectar in the honeycomb, a
structure also created by the worker bees (bees of a certain age secrete wax
from glands on their abdomen, and this forms the walls and caps of the
honeycomb). Bees inside the hive fan their wings, creating a strong draft
across the honeycomb that encourages evaporation of the water remaining in the
nectar. The reduction of the water content raises sugar concentration and
prevents fermentation of the natural yeast in the nectar.
Kallas Honey Farm began
in 1941 when John Kallas developed an interest in beekeeping while helping a
neighbor in Fox Point tend to his hobby hive. As payment for Kallas’ effort,
the neighbor gave him a hive. In only a few years, Kallas had close to 100
hives and a small processing operation. He enlisted his sons James and Gerald to
help him sell the family’s honey through door-to-door sales calls and at
farmers’ markets county fairs. Later, James and his dad expanded the business
by tapping into the retail market, first negotiating with tiny mom-and-pop
grocers, then pairing up with bigger supermarkets, like Kohl’s.
By 1955, Kallas Honey
Farm had almost 1,000 hives scattered across Milwaukee,
Ozaukee and Washington
counties. When demand for its honey increased, Kallas had to start buying honey
from other local producers in order to fill their own orders. In the
early-’70s, the family decided to abandon beekeeping completely to concentrate
on the processing, packaging, marketing and distribution of their honey.
Kallas Honey Farm is now
steered by the third generation of Kallas men: James’ sons Perry, who serves as
vice president of operations, and Peter, who is currently vice president of
sales and distribution. According to Perry, Kallas Honey Farm packages
approximately 2 million pounds of honey a year. They work from a 30,000-square-foot
facility on Douglas Avenue
that houses the farm’s administrative offices, as well as the storage and
Kallas Honey Farm
receives honey from producers all over the country, but mostly from Wisconsin and Minnesota.
It arrives at the facility in bulk as a raw, naturally crystallized solid, and
is immediately placed in long-term storage.
“Our customers here ask
us to handle the honey as gently as we can,” Perry explains. “So rather than
pasteurize or cook it, we simply heat the honey to help it move through the
Rather than add
filtering agents to make the honey clear like most major honey producers,
Kallas allows the honey to pass through membranes that catch fine sediments.
“It’s just another set
of processes that we choose not to do,” Perry adds. “That’s how we are able to
label it unfiltered and uncooked.”
The color and flavor of
honey differ depending on the source of bees’ nectar. In general,
lighter-colored honey is delicate and mild, while darker honey is bolder and
more robust. Also, honey does not take on the flavor of the fruit from the same
plant. For example, honey derived from bees foraging from an orange blossom
isn’t going to taste like orange. Kallas’ retail product line includes a wide
variety of honey. From lightest to darkest, they are: alfalfa, clover, orange
blossom, sunflower, cranberry blossom, wildflower, buckwheat and blueberry
The largest percentage
of Kallas honey goes to supplying commercial food manufacturers, restaurants
and bakeries. In addition to honey, consumers can purchase other Kallas
products, such as honey mustard, honey barbecue sauce, dried bee pollen, pure
beeswax, honeycomb, honey-flavored snacks and pure maple syrup from Outpost,
Sendik’s and other area grocers.
Kallas Honey Farm is located at 5500 W. Douglas Ave. For more information, call 1-800-373-HONY (4669) or visit www.kallashoney.com.