For those who strive to observe the stricter Lenten fast which requires abstinence from both meat and animal products all of Lent, a question arises on if eating honey would violate the fast. Honey starts as flower nectar collected by bees, which gets broken down into simple sugars stored inside the honeycomb. The design of the honeycomb and constant fanning of the bees’ wings causes evaporation, creating sweet liquid honey. Honey’s color and flavor vary based on the nectar collected by the bees
Honey is produced by bees, but honey is not an animal product at least in the sense of avoiding flesh and “all that comes from flesh”. Bees are not mammals. So the product produced by bees is not forbidden on days of abstinence. What was forbidden for centuries was meat along with lacticinia. Father Hardon notes in the definition of lacticinia: « Milk (Latin, lac) and milk products, e.g., butter and cheese, and eggs or animal products formerly prohibited during Lent, along with flesh meat. In the early Middle Ages lacticinia were forbidden even on Sundays during the Lenten season. » Honey does not fall into that category.
Even those groups that still observe strict Lenten abstinence allow honey. This is seen for instance in the Orthodox tradition which, in some places, still keeps abstinence from animal products at least for monks. Seasonal European Dishes by Elisabeth Luard, published in 2013, references this by noting that honey was allowed: « Orthodox pre-Revolution Russians ate only vegetables, fruit, bread and honey during Lent. The Romanians ate only Indian corn and beans. Bulgarians ate only black food for mourning – black bread, black olives, black beans in olive oil, and prunes. The full fast was often limited to the first and last weeks only. »
May God grant everyone a most blessed Lenten fast with its strict abstinence from meat and lacticinia.
Want to learn more about the history of fasting and abstinence? Check out the Definitive Guide to Catholic Fasting and Abstinence.