Maribel Ramirez, 37, is a quality assurance assistant at Nature Nate’s Honey in McKinney, Tex.
What’s involved in your operation?
We get honey from 125 beekeepers in several states. It’s in big metal barrels and has to be separated into smaller batches. I test for things like color, moisture, acidity and gluten content to make sure the batch is high quality. I also check that our production staff conforms to rigorous sanitation and safety standards.
How did you get this job?
I was working in a similar job testing ice cream at another food company when my supervisor left to come here about three years ago. She had always been very complimentary about my work, and when they were adding to the Q.A. group, she called me to come and work with her. I’ve been here almost two years. I feel very lucky.
How do you test the honey?
For each sample, I use a refractometer, which measures moisture content, a pH meter for acidity, a honey color photometer, and other instruments that measure acidity and viscosity. I also match the color to a graphic with honey-colored shades and do a taste test. I love honey; I could eat it all day. I’ve become adept at identifying the state a sample comes from, and flowers from a particular area, like alfalfa or clover. Then I put some batches aside for outside lab testing for corn and rice syrup adulteration and the presence of pesticides or antibiotics. We return bad batches to the beekeeper.
What is your work area like?
It’s a lab. Besides a hairnet and a lab coat, I wear gloves and goggles because I use chemicals in the acidity testing. I stand at a table when I’m testing, and document information on a computer for every batch — when I receive it, during the testing process, and for a summary.
How was switching from ice cream to honey?
I have a link to honey from my childhood so it seemed natural. In my village in Mexico, our neighbors would get honey from nearby beehives and give us some. My brother, who was in a wheelchair, had ulcers all over his body. When I was 10, I’d put honey on the sores and they got better. New skin grew. I told my mother that when I grew up I was going to work with honey. She said, “But we don’t have a lot of bees here,” and I told her I’d find a way.
Do you think your sons might work there one day?
I don’t know about my two teenagers, but my 9-year-old wants to do everything I do. Some days when I come home from work, he tells me what he’s been reading on his tablet about bees, especially the queen bee.
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