The quality manual is a document containing a set of rules about how to run a beekeeping activity. Abiding by the current laws is not enough.
And it is not enough to love and respect nature. To do good, and to produce good honey, you have to go beyond.
You have to select the environment where bees are kept, be aware of the people who live in that environment, worry about keeping an extremely high level of hygiene in the laboratories, write things down incessantly to keep track of everything. And so much more.
Quality also means thinking by steps, similarly to the way large companies act. Break down your activity in smaller operations, until each of them is easy to manage and document. Doing this allows you to discover the limits, the risks, the opportunities for improvement. Changes come only after many years of passion for beekeeping (and sometimes, boring repetitiveness).
But changes can also come thanks to the experience of others. In the beginning we used to waste so much smoke, while now we employ a limited amount of it, utilizing natural straw. In this document we provide you with our manual, which also contains information to identify our products: Working with the “Biodiversity Group”, part of the Slowfood Turin convivium, we recently examined their procedural guidelines for the production of “Mieli di Alta Montagna” (high mountain honeys), and we decided to rewrite our quality manual to make it more readable and comparable with Slow Food’s.
We realised that we were very much in line with Slow Food, and even though some of their descriptions are didactic and generic, since they have to apply to all of Italy, our own descriptions were very meticulous, sometimes too meticulous. You can see the manual here: Man_Quality_Pagliai.pdf
Here is an example:
La Mandria area: It’s the vastest area (more than 2500 hectares) of lowlands forest in the northern Piedmont plains, attributable to alliance Carpinion dominated by English oak, sessile oak, Turkey oak, birch, ash tree, small-leaved lime, wild cherry. Relict Molinia arundinacea moorland with birches.
The harvest (or grazing) areas are within the La Mandria Regional Park. Specifically, the area comprises four municipalities: Druento, La Cassa, Fiano, Robassomero.
The park is protected by the Piedmont Park Authority, and building has been restricted in the area since 1978 (see Article 4: Protection measures).
The harvest (or grazing) areas are located between the foothills and the middle of the park, more than 3km away from any source of pollution or contamination, such as large urban areas, industrial areas, major roads, incinerators, landfills, intensive cultivations (in which pesticides are used), in order to avoid altering the physical, chemical and organoleptic properties of honey.
The only two methods used to remove bees from the hives are bee escape and blower (only when the queen excluder is in place), in order to guarantee the quality of the product.
The use of chemical repellents, including smoke, is forbidden, as is killing the bees in the honeycomb as a harvesting method. Supers are extracted when at least 75% of the cells in the honeycomb are capped, which is when nectar has been completely transformed and the resulting honey does not exceed 18% moisture content. In case waiting for that moment is not possible (for example to avoid mixing two harvests), it will be necessary to apply the drying procedures (see Article 8).
The harvest comes from honeycombs supers devoid of brood or pollen. Already in this phase, we take the necessary precautions to avoid contamination (by dust, dirt, contact with insects or other animals, extraneous substances), and to avoid the absorption of air moisture.