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Crossing The Rubicon

We have resumed milk sales as of Feb. 6.
These letters tell the story as it unfolded in real life. (notice the dates)
Be sure to read them in order from the first to the last.

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Important Notice - 1-27-2012, 11:31pm

The Heart Of Your Farmer - 1-30-2012, 9:01am

Hallelujah! - 1-30-2012, 2:54pm

A Word From Edwin - 2-1-2012, 12:06pm

It was us - 2-3-2012, 7:39am

Where Do We Go From Here? - 2-3-2012, 11:44am

Great News, Folks! - 2-6-2012, 9:30pm

The Family Cow Sets Her Own Standards - 2-16-2012, 8:08pm

Crossing The Rubicon - 3-5-2012, 6:10pm


Crossing The Rubicon

by Edwin Shank, March 5, 2012, 6:10pm


Around 3000 years ago, there lived a wise man who spoke by inspiration of God. And this is what he said: "Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips." ~ King Solomon, circa 1000 BC ~ Proverbs 27:2

This adage is impressively wise. Considering the source of Solomon’s wisdom and the humility with which he petitioned for it, we are not surprised. I meditate on these words a lot and cannot help but make some parallel observations. Like this, for example: Let another man defend thee and not thine own tongue.

The events of the past 6 weeks that have surrounded our farm and family have understandably given rise to an inclination to defend ourselves. But outweighing this inclination was the belief that a better way, even a more effective way, was to let you speak for us. You did... and a great job it was! Thank you!

But increasingly we come up against a dilemma. Here it is.

Is it morally right to passively watch truth, any kind of truth, being abused... even if it is just the truth about raw milk? Is it selfish to avoid a defense of truth because we are afraid that our defense of truth will be misconstrued by some as a dishonorable defense of ourselves? Is there a difference between selfishly defending self and honorably defending truth?

This conflict between our desire to avoid dishonorable defense and our moral obligation to communicate truth to The Family Cow families has been building steadily. What to do? Which is most right?

Last week this issue was forcefully brought to a head by the flood of calls from customers, friends, and family. They had been left confused by the claims and statistics of government agencies in relation to raw milk risks. Many had even been erroneously led to believe that new illnesses are still occurring from our farm! Several were under the false impression that there was actually a second outbreak.

We can’t say this strongly enough folks. At its best, this is incompetent journalism and at its worst it is intentional misinformation. Many of you will say, "Well, what did you expect?" And I guess that is part of our problem. Somehow we always want to believe the best of others, that they would not decimate false information and that really, down inside, they want to take the high road. We are getting our education. We are fast learners.

So today we crossed our Rubicon. We still are not going to defend ourselves. In fact, we aren’t even going to defend truth. Truth needs no defense. But we are going to communicate the truth. That is all the truth needs…to be told. No more watching truth get slaughtered on the altar of sensationalism. The news media and the health departments have had over a month to tell you the truth. Now we will.

In the following paragraphs, I highlight several common anti-raw-milk strategies. I have consistently observed these tactics over the last 10 years. Many of you are already wise to these methods, however, some of you are new to raw milk and are at a loss to identify and expose the twist in the information even when you strongly suspect it is there. It is for you and your families that I write.

Strategy #1. Only tell part of the truth. Freely quote government and medical data in order to appear valid but only reveal the parts that advance the agenda. This strategy is #1 because it works so well. It works because most of us are either too busy, too trusting or lackadaisical to do our own research and so will never notice.Here is how this tactic was used in our situation.

The number of ill from our farm was broadcasted with ever-increasing alarm. (And we aren’t minimizing the seriousness of even one ill person. Believe me!) But, wouldn’t you think that to give the story context it would have only been right, only fair, even a moral obligation to also reveal that the CDC estimates 2.4 million cases of campylobacter in USA every year! Here is an unedited excerpt directly from the CDC.

How common is Campylobacter?

Campylobacter is one of the most common causes of diarrheal illness in the United States. The vast majority of cases occur as isolated, sporadic events, not as part of recognized outbreaks. Active surveillance through FoodNet indicates that about 13 cases are diagnosed each year for each 100,000 persons in the population. Many more cases go undiagnosed or unreported, and campylobacteriosis is estimated to affect over 2.4 million persons every year, or 0.8% of the population.

So, let’s do the math.

  • According to the CDC, the annual cases of campylobacteriosis in USA are: 2,400,000
  • If we divide that by 50 states, it puts the annual cases per state at: 48,000
  • When we divide that by 52, we find that the weekly number of cases per state is: 923
  • So the number of cases per state for the two week period (Jan 16-31st) in question is: 1,846
  • Therefore, the normal case count during the two weeks from a 4 state area is: 7,384
  • If we subtract the 80 cases from our farm during that same period, we discover that during the same two week period in PA, MD, WV and NJ, the official estimated number of cases of campylobacteriosis from other source was: 7,304

Now that’s food for thought! What did the other 7,300 eat? Of course, everyone else was normal and just ate normal foods, so what made them sick wasn’t newsworthy. But even so, why wasn’t this official data revealed to at least put the story in context? I mean, aren’t professional, ethical, educated journalists supposed to be balanced? But I do understand. To put the story in context would have taken away a lot of the fear and drama. We can’t have that folks... we can’t have truth obscuring the fear!

Strategy #2. Intentionally leave the impression that this is a unique raw milk problem. In no case reveal that pasteurized milk does not eliminate risk. This strategy is amazingly successful for the same reason #1 works so well. We are too busy or too trusting to do our own homework. Here is how it is used in real life.

There was little attempt to give the story balance. Balanced data and all the facts are essential to parents responsible to make educated, informed, choices for their family. No parents should be conned into a decision based on fear, sensationalism and partial information and no health official or reporter should put them in that position. It seems the following outbreaks could have been referred to, at least in passing.

Please understand. We do not present this data to try to persuade anyone away from pasteurized milk. Your choice is just as honorable as our choice. We simply present this information because we believe in informed choice. It is part of the information puzzle. If someone is hiding important pieces, how will you ever assemble the big picture? If these true outbreak stories are a shock to you and have disturbed a sheltered feeling that you cherished, I’m sorry to wake you up. But don’t blame me for the sleep! Blame those who are singing the lullaby. We present this to you because it’s unlikely you will get it from any other source. The point in mentioning other outbreaks is not to divert attention from us with "Oh look, they did it too, so we are not so bad." The point is that contamination can and does happen to all food classes but the focus is always on the How, Why and Solutionto the contamination, not on the elimination of the food class. All we ask is that raw milk be given equal treatment.

Strategy #3. Compile raw milk illnesses from multiple years to get bigger, scarier numbers.

This tactic is the easiest to expose. It is such an obvious attempt and yet it is parroted in just about every article you read on raw milk. Once you know what to look for, you too will notice it everywhere. It is worded slightly different at times but it usually goes something like this excerpt taken from a news story last month. "According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 93 outbreaks due to consumption of raw milk or raw milk products were reported from 1998 through 2009 resulting in 1,837 illnesses, 195 hospitalizations and two deaths."

This data indeed sounds alarming! At least until you wake up. First, notice that 1998-2009 is an 11-year period. When do you ever hear of an 11-year period used to give statistics? Total traffic accident deaths over the last 11 years? Total ill from hamburgers over the last 11 years? Total asthma and allergy deaths during the last 11 years? Total food-borne illness deaths over the last 11 years? No. Never. Statistics invariably are given on a per-year basis for a good reason. It makes comparison easy.

So why would the media and the CDC make comparison hard in the case of raw milk? Well, for starters, to reveal that an average of 167 persons get ill from raw milk per year just doesn’t pack the same fear-factor punch as the big number. But even more important, they are confident (see strategy #1) that the average person is not awake enough to know that the, "CDC estimates that each year roughly 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases."

You better go back and read that again! Notice, that this is each year, not an 11-year window like they use for raw milk. So, let’s politely yet firmly... (it’s always important to be firm with these people) ask them to play fair and honest and extend the 11-year statistical window for all foods just like they have chosen to do for raw milk. This is what we find:

  • Every 11 years, 528,000,000 Americans are estimated to fall ill from food-borne illness. 1,837 of those are from raw milk.
  • Every 11 years, 1,408,000 Americans are hospitalized from food-borne disease. 195 of those are from raw milk.
  • Every 11 years, 33,000 Americans die from food-borne illness. 2 of those are from raw milk.

Folks, I’m not making this up. These are not my numbers. I am simply forcing the players to play fair with their numbers. As an awake American, you need to ask yourself, "What is going on? Why was I not told this before? Who is hiding the puzzle pieces and why? What is the motive to make raw milk illness look like such a huge food-safety threat when the statistics show it is not?"

Strategy #4. Carefully word headlines so new illnesses appear to occur long after the outbreak is over. This insidious strategy works marvelously to spread the hype and fear, because many are not aware that it is normal for epidemiologists to take several weeks to finish their paperwork. When health departments send urgent news releases and reporters create sensational headlines each time the paperwork on a case is finished, it is easy to make it look like new cases are still cropping up. This tactic is especially effective at damaging trust if the raw milk farmer has taken extraordinary steps to correct the problem and has informed his customers of the changes. Since the "new illness" reports appear after the public has been reassured the problem is fixed, the credibility and trust of the farmer and raw milk itself is destroyed much more than the first time around. It is a raw-milk-opponent's dream!

This particular strategy has been distressing to our family. Even though our raw milk sales have increased sharply and drop point sign-ups have roughly doubled as compared to our "pre-January" rates, (Praise the Lord and Thank you, Thank you, Everybody!) it still hurts to hear the doubt, distrust and worry in the voice of a loyal raw milk mom as she fearfully asks, "Are there still people getting ill from your milk? ...I read it in the news," or "Is it true... the news is saying that there has been another outbreak?" One mother said that she was sure it was a glitch the first time, but now she is not sure anymore. When we try so hard and care so deeply that our hearts at times feel pulled up by the roots only to see our credibility ripped away in a moment by this tactic... at its best, this is incompetent journalism and at its worst it is intentional misinformation.

We are getting our education. And like it or not, you are in school with us. Now, go educate your friends and family. One awake American shaking a friend out of slumber awakens another percent or so of Americans every year. One American at a time, the tipping point will be reached. This is power. This is hope. It is only a matter of time. With you at our side we need not defend ourselves!

Your farmers ~ Edwin and Dawn Shank and Family

Note to the Media: You are not permitted to use anything from this newsletter in print or otherwise without our explicit written permission. This is a personal letter written for our customers' information and for them to share with their friends and families.

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