Shades of Gray: Why A Journalist’s Reporting on MN Raw Milk Won’t Get a Lot of Accolades from Either Side


 There have been many newspaper articles about raw milk over the last few years, and they nearly all use the same presentation formula. They begin with an example of a farmer producing raw milk for many happy customers. Then the narrative switches to all the warnings about raw milk’s dangers from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control. They conclude with favorable quotes from raw milk drinkers and unfavorable quotes from public health officials.

Michael HartmannWith that in mind, the article in the Minneapolis StarTribune on Sunday is curious. It contrasts the case of a young child allegedly sickened by raw milk from dairy farmer Michael Hartmann two years ago with the claims by a customer that not only is raw milk highly nutritious, but she has the right to privately obtain milk from Hartmann’s dairy

In the process, the article reports on a separate suit brought against Hartmann by the Caldwells, the parents of the child who became sick, and the issue of responsibility. The article reports that the judge in the trial agreed that the child’s parents “potentially bore some responsibility because they should have known of raw milk’s risks.” A jury may be called on to make the final determination as to a division of responsibility between Hartmann and the parents, presumably if no settlement is reached beforehand.

The notion of the parents bearing at least some responsibility for serving their children raw milk is a new idea, at least in my experience reporting on raw milk and food rights. Unfortunately, we’ll likely hear little from the parties that most often discuss and debate raw milk. 

We’ll almost certainly not read anything about the intriguing legalities from lawyers who make the most noise about raw milk, like Bill Marler and Fred Pritzker (who are quoted in the Minneapolis paper’s article); there’s not been a peep from them since the case launched the middle of last year.  That’s because they are focused primarily on marketing their legal services. The family in the lawsuit is being represented by a diversified Minneapolis firm that doesn’t specialize in product liability the way Marler and Pritzker do, so there’s no marketing opportunity, since the case has already been taken off the market. At least I think that’s the reason, unless there is some kind of professional courtesy among lawyers that prohibits them from commenting about another lawyer’s case in public.  

In the same vein, I doubt we’ll be hearing much about this article from food rights advocates. I’ve sent it to a number I know, without a peep in response. My guess is that the article’s depiction of a young child’s illness and the suggestion that Hartmann’s milk was likely responsible is too uncomfortable to deal with.

Hartmann, for his part, declined to be interviewed for the article, sticking to his vow of silence and privacy in the face of what he has long felt to be uninformed and unfair reporting about him.  

I’ve criticized in the past the failure of the Food Rights movement to speak up about illnesses, or to speak appropriately and accurately. I expressed my concerns last summer about Hartmann supporters making a show of support at the trial involving the Caldwell family.  On the matter of inaccurate and inconsistent statements, witness Mary Martin’s devastating list of quotations from Mark McAfee of Organic Pastures Dairy Co. concerning the outbreak of illnesses linked to OPDC back in 2006 (following my previous post). Yes, the Internet keeps very much alive the quotations of public figures like McAfee—and the inconsistencies are much more damaging over time, in my estimation, than a frank acknowledgment as to the real situation.

This article in the Minneapolis StarTribune thus helps us appreciate both the business considerations at work (for the lawyers and OPDC), as well as the ideological ones that divide.

So, in the face of the silence, I’ll just congratulate the Minneapolis Star reporter, Michael Hughlette, for making a valiant effort at fairness on a story where fairness is little appreciated. It’s nearly impossible to probe the many nuances of the arguments on both sides of the issue in the course of 1,200 to 1,500 words or so. What I liked was that he took seriously the food rights side of the argument as espoused by Melinda Olson and Alvin Schlangen, rather than immediately trashing it and accepting the usual efforts at ridicule by the opponents of raw milk.  And by appropriately reporting on the Caldwell child’s illness, and filling us in with some new developments on the legal side, he filled in the picture in an informative way.

All involved tend to see the raw milk issue as completely black-and-white , but until each side can accept the shades of gray inherent in the dispute, any sort of mutual acceptance will remain just a distant vision.  

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99 Comments on "Shades of Gray: Why A Journalist’s Reporting on MN Raw Milk Won’t Get a Lot of Accolades from Either Side"

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May 23, 2012 2:54 pm

re. “Regarding David’s posting and the judge’s comments…”
who: Ron Klein | when: Wed, 05/23/2012 – 05:28

Thanks Ron, for your comment. If I understand you correctly, you are saying that the parents-children relationship is of general importance to society and therefore the basic issues found there are basic issues of society.

Mr. J. Ingvar Odegaard

mark mcafee
May 23, 2012 3:21 pm

D. Smith,

You have a great question….the answer is this: my family eats all of the foods we produce at OPDC and we get it from the same creamery source that everyone else eats from. No separte sources. The OPDC products at the stores are the same products consumed by all of our four generations of family members and that includes from 75 years old down to 29 months old. All employees at OPDC eat from these same sources. Everyone eats the same food that our consumers eat. We have no separate cows or chickens or etc.

When paratroopers select… Read more »

D. Smith
May 23, 2012 3:47 pm

@ Mark: Then any judge hearing a case should also hear the side about your family and their consumption habits, no? THAT would make for a good balance, would it not? Having been in the legal field for a while myself though, I can’t see that happening. They don’t wanna hear it. Seems only the gory stuff provides fodder.

In doing some research last night, I came across this vid (only 12 minutes) and came away wondering “who is this guy”? The vid isn’t dated (one of my big complaints about YouTube –… Read more »

D. Smith
May 23, 2012 4:14 pm

AND, for the record, I should also state that I do NOT believe that raw milk is a “miracle food”. It tastes lovely (especially spring milk) and it makes the best chocolate milk and other goodies we sometimes have as treats, as well as the fact that IMO there’s nothing better with a bowl of hot homemade beef veggie soup than a huge glass of raw milk. But I’m not blind to the fact that it’s not miraculous because I have immune problems (Sjogren’s Syndrome) and I have two sisters who had RA. I also have… Read more »

Lola Granola
May 23, 2012 4:50 pm

“(Lola seems to think that anyone who is pro raw milk believes it to be a haloed food – not true, at least not for me)”

Riddle me this, D. Smith: until the last generation, when Western influence encroached on China (McDonalds, etc.), the Chinese have not traditionally consumed dairy products, but yet were free from the diseases of affluence – asthma, allergies, heart disease, diabetes, etc. How could this be?

It is proven that dairy (raw or pasteurized) is not NECESSARY for health, yet many in this movement don’t seem to recognize that, and instead defend raw milk… Read more »

Ron Klein
May 23, 2012 4:53 pm

Yes, parent-child and society-child, and thus the legal structure dealing with cases of abuse and neglect where the State will represent for The People a victim-child. In such cases the child is appointed an attorney advocate to work through procedural and other matters, each parent has representation, and the State prosecutes on behalf of the victim/child. Just making a point regarding an aspect of raw milk issues that I have not seen raised on this forum before.

May 23, 2012 5:17 pm

You are probably quite right Ron. But what these people are saying is that approach defies common sense and all of human history until modern times. What you are saying is just one in a long list of evidences that the there is no justice in the court system when it comes to the state taking away parent’s children. Its not about justice, its about whatever excuse can be found to justify taking away a kid. You’ll probably disagree with that, but I’ve seen it happen far too many times.

Sylvia Gibson
Sylvia Gibson
May 23, 2012 5:23 pm

I used the words ‘wobbly fence’ because it appears to be (other than obvious abuse) some incidents are not abuse to some as they are to others. Punishing your kids today is a big issue. If you spank them CPS may come down on you. Everyone defines spanking differently. If you don’t discipline them, CPS may come down on you. If you don’t allow your kid to enjoy the ‘great’ things other kids enjoy, you are a bad parent, extremest, abusive, strict, etc.

It is my understanding in some states, if you aren’t… Read more »

Ora Moose
Ora Moose
May 23, 2012 5:25 pm

Thak you Ron for sharing a perspective many of us might never be exposed to otherwise. I was in no way implying that you or the judge are bad people, only pointing out that what we sometimes perceive as a universal truth may not be anything near that, a lot us our beliefs and laws included. Just as in your profession you may be required to represent individuals that you may believe in your heart are quilty, your job is to defend them even if it means suppresing evidence, and not be the judge.

What I still don’t… Read more »

Dave Milano
May 23, 2012 5:26 pm


I have rarely read a more depressing analysis than yours in this thread, thus because it is true.

We are a grossly overconfident people, currently making a mistake in our understanding of human health so broad and fundamental that dissent from it is deemed irrelevant, or even reason for criminal prosecution. Tyranny with a smile.

Your analogy to prosecuting child abuse is interesting, given that the “science” of pediatric forensics is undergoing a revolution as we speak. What was considered good scientific evidence of child abuse just a few years ago (evidence that well-intentioned prosecutors, judges, and juries utilized to send… Read more »

May 23, 2012 5:37 pm

You’re soft peddling it David, it is far worse than that. He also has a history of repeatedly lying about the true nature of his product with regards to outsourcing and his production practices. Its worse than a ‘credibility problem’. He has no credibility. He appears to be nothing more than a self aggrandizing liar. No one should take him serious any more.

D. Smith
May 23, 2012 5:44 pm

@ Dave Milano: I agree with you.

But ALL science is questionable these days. Here’s a great, entertaining, funny, witty vid on that very subject – by a doctor. This is a wonderful Ted Talk video about “bad science”. It’s entertaining and educational at the same time – and the guy talks faster than anyone I’ve ever heard, but he’s making excellent points. Check it out:

Ron Klein
May 23, 2012 5:52 pm

Thank you Dave, your comments are on target as always-and I speak from experience. Farming fulltime now-just wanting to live happy.

Best wishes,


D. Smith
May 23, 2012 6:01 pm

@ Lola: You’re right. We raw milk drinkers are religious about it, to a degree. And you’re right, too, about the fact that people can choose not to drink milk or consume dairy in any form (or whole countries, as you pointed out with China, although a source of your info would be good to see). I have an uncle who lived in Mongolia for quite some time (he is a professor of oriental languages) and he relates to me that he and his wife and child drank milk often. It was usually oxen… Read more »

Lola Granola
May 23, 2012 6:08 pm

China is not Mongolia. Mongolia developed herding/dairy culture, China did not.

I do not have a source for you to reference and will not spend my time finding one for you. Do some research on traditional diets in China and you will find the answer.

It’s true that no one signs up for a cow-share accidentally, but it’s naive to believe that everyone knows the risks. When Pete Kennedy and FTCLDF guided me on the writing of my farmshare contract they had me write into it that the farmshare ‘owners’ who were signing the contract agreed not to… Read more »

D. Smith
May 23, 2012 6:44 pm

@ Lola: I would have preferred to see the evidence on which you based your claim about China, but never mind. It’s not important or relative to my way of thinking. You told me what I wanted to know.

You make a great case in another way. Maybe it’s better if parents DON’T know or understand what they’re agreeing to by signing a contract to purchase/drink raw milk. They can plead ignorance either way – of the dangers and/or benefits. If they can muster a stupid enough look on their… Read more »

mark mcafee
May 23, 2012 6:54 pm

This weekend hundreds of OPDC customers will converge on OPDC and set up tents and share food and stories.

To put the Culture back into Agriculture and reconnect the passion and purpose of real food….so that we can all defend the right to protect our children from illness by building strong immunity.

I completetly agree that the body can be rebuilt without raw milk. No argument from me.

But I will say that after nearly 13 years of producing and selling raw milk….I am buried by testimonials of its healing properties. After years of alternative therapies and nutrition…people report… Read more »

Lola Granola
May 23, 2012 7:21 pm

“@ Lola: I would have preferred to see the evidence on which you based your claim about China, but never mind. It’s not important or relative to my way of thinking. You told me what I wanted to know.”

Are you seriously incapable of doing a simple Google search to research this yourself?

In less than 5 minutes:
“The traditional Chinese diet features vegetables that have been lightly steamed or stir fried, accompanied by starches like rice, noodles or dumplings. Meat and fish are part of the traditional diet, but are served in much smaller amounts than is typical in the Western… Read more »

Lola Granola
May 23, 2012 7:23 pm

“Raw milk has qualities not found in any other foods…name one that compares. There are none that compare….none.”

Human breast milk?

joelie hicks
May 23, 2012 8:46 pm

I believe human breast milk IS raw milk.

Ora Moose
Ora Moose
May 23, 2012 8:47 pm

That is definitely the ultimate, but since you can’t just daily put dozens of women out to pasture and collect hundreds of gallons of their milk… you get the idea.

D. Smith
May 23, 2012 8:55 pm

@ Lola: Of course I’m not incapable and stop being snide. I just wondered if there was a particular recent article you’d read which stated as fact the idea that the Chinese don’t drink milk. As a matter of fact, I just did a search about the Chinese drinking milk as a part of their diet and found several pages of articles. So you see, it’s easy to find whatever you need on the internet to back up whatever it is you believe.

Lola Granola
May 23, 2012 9:01 pm

But it’s not the kind McAfee sells. And he asked what food could possibly be better than the breast milk of another species. Uh, milk from your own species? lol…

Ora Moose
Ora Moose
May 23, 2012 9:06 pm

I hear you Lola, but… are you grass fed? I think human diets vary much more than cows so a direct comparison is nearly impossible. What I would think is safe to assume is that babies already have their mom’s immune imprint, and you can’t duplicate that with cows to humans, apples and oranges. I would think Mark is refering to food you can buy or sell.

Lola Granola
May 23, 2012 9:13 pm

“…and stop being snide.”

THAT’S the pot calling the kettle black considering your behavior the last few days!

The information I gave you is not from “internet articles”, it’s from researchers, anthropologists and medical doctors. Did you by any chance note in your search WHEN the Chinese started drinking milk? Was it recently, or historically?

By the way…animals have only been domesticated for approximately 10,000 years, starting with sheep and goats, then with cows being domesticated around 8,000 years ago. How on earth did Homo Sapiens crawl out of the mud without sucking on the teat of another species???

Lola Granola
May 23, 2012 9:23 pm

Yeah, I know Mark was implying a food you could buy or sell, but human breast milk has the correct fat, protein and carbohydrate (vitamin, mineral, etc.) balance for a human, a cow’s milk has a different makeup (the reason you need to ‘tinker’ with it so much if you make the WAPF raw milk baby formula), and the challenge was to name a food better than raw cow milk.

“I hear you Lola, but… are you grass fed?”
Last I knew I didn’t have a four chamber fermentation-type stomach.

Lola Granola
May 23, 2012 9:27 pm

Why not? The cows don’t volunteer for that position, either.

Sylvia Gibson
Sylvia Gibson
May 23, 2012 10:02 pm

Can you sell breast milk? Or is that illegal?

D. Smith
May 23, 2012 10:55 pm

Pot calling the kettle black! Why? Because I apologized to you and a couple of others for ever doubting a word you say?

Heh. (Oops – now THAT was snide, wasn’t it?) Sorry.

China, historically, was a huge country and Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, Canton and several other provinces were all included when they said “China” because those were, at one time, considered a part of China. I have no idea when they started using milk in the part of China to which you refer but parts of China have been using it since recorded history. They may… Read more »

Ora Moose
Ora Moose
May 23, 2012 11:12 pm

I know of some mom’s that have shared with friends and neighbors but don’t think there was ever any money involved and have no clue on the legalities. Pretty sure you can’t advertise for it though…

Check out new legal ramifications regarding the health claims of some other food, that went to court and semi won. Any chance this scenario could play out in the raw milk world?

In particular, the part that starts with “The FTC tried to create a new, stricter industry standard…”

Ora Moose
Ora Moose
May 23, 2012 11:14 pm

To clarify, that would be “friends and neighbors’ babies.”

Lola Granola
May 23, 2012 11:17 pm

“When you come up with your theory on how Homo Sapiens crawled out of the mud without animal milk, post the link here.”


Homo Sapiens = Where Lived: Evolved in Africa, now worldwide
When Lived: About 200,000 years ago to present

Domestication of animals = 10,000 years ago to present

Obviously, there was a time when humans lived without animal milk.

joelie hicks
May 23, 2012 11:34 pm

I don’t know about selling, but my daughter donated about 50 lbs to a milk bank before she moved.

mark mcafee
May 24, 2012 12:11 am

Try “Baby Gaga” Ice Cream.

They make icecream in London and one of the ingredients is human breast milk.
Howard Hughes and Randolphe Hearst drank raw breast milk.

The FDA does not regulate raw breast milk because it does not come from a hoofed animal.

On April 1st the FDA actually outlawed raw milk breast milk for human consumption. See this article. Just joking…it was April 1st.

D. Smith
May 24, 2012 12:55 am

@ Lola: Well der. . .

Homo sapiens had to learn about animals before they could do ANYTHING with them.

And as to your timelines above, I will not get started arguing the fine points of origin. Not the origins of man or beast. The argument about raw milk is enough.

May 24, 2012 2:00 am

just when I perceived a bit of light at the end of the tunnel … along comes the local fascists with this new “law framed in mischief” = see below. Exactly the same as where I got thrown into the whole psycho-drama by taking on the crooks who outlawed freedom of Expression around the abortion mills. Last time I went out on the street ( 1998) I was sent off to prison for a month, for ‘practicing Christianity on the public street / uttering criticism of govt. policy in a restricted zone’. … Read more »

May 24, 2012 3:22 am

I would like to make people aware that the Senate is voting tomorrow in an Amendment introduced by Rand Paul. Earlier this evening, Senator Paul discussed the abuses of power at the FDA and the need to rein them in by adopting his amendment #2143 to the FDA User Fee Bill, S. 3187. I believe they are voting on it Thursday May 24 at 2PM EST.

I copied the following off the website and there are their two links below. They are asking people to call their senators to vote YES on the Rand… Read more »

Ken Conrad
Ken Conrad
May 24, 2012 12:21 pm

Flame retardants (PBDE’s) are commonly found in in many products including women’s bras. They are endocrine disrupting compounds and accumulate in fatty tissue. Breast tissue and breast milk have been found to contain the highest concentrations of flame retardants in the body.
“Until recently, brominated flame retardants were considered safe. However, in 1999, Swedish researchers discovered much greater amounts in human breast milk than had been detected twenty-five years earlier. Levels in breast milk of American women are about 10 times higher than in European women. This has raised concern among many scientists and environmental… Read more »

D. Smith
May 24, 2012 2:15 pm

I posted this at David’s blog concerning the MN fiasco, too, but wanted to place it here, as well, so NO ONE will miss it. Only about 7 minutes. Good stuff.

Rand Paul introduces Amendment 2143 (S.3187 FDA User Free Reauthorization Bill) to DISARM – yes, disarm – the FDA gun-toting fools, AND to try to stop raids on Amish farms and others selling raw milk. He also delves into the subjects of supplements, prune juice and other things he thinks are federally over regulated.

I sure hope he makes some inroads.

D. Smith
May 24, 2012 2:16 pm

Oops – it’s early – I forgot to add the link!

Sylvia Gibson
Sylvia Gibson
May 24, 2012 3:55 pm

A few years ago, I saw some photos of chemical burns on women in the shape of the bras, they were bought from Victoria Secret, They had previously bought bras from the store without problems, these bras were made in china. If I recall, previously the bras were made in South America. There have been photos of kids with chemical burns from clothes, and burns from shoes (flip flops)….

May 24, 2012 6:38 pm

Senate just voted to table Rand Paul’s amendment about 78 to 15. That is, according to the quotation below from the “Amending Process in the Senate”, sort of the equivalent of taking a test vote. So the Senate won’t even vote on it. I have been watching the proceedings on Cspan on the entire FDA bill before the senate. There is a love affair between the U.S. Senators and the FDA. The “science” of the FDA is highly exalted by many senators. The many Senators that are in power now won’t touch the… Read more »

D. Smith
May 24, 2012 7:00 pm

I know of several places to buy and sell breastmilk. Here is one outlet:

Some places require a special diet for the Mom (not exactly what I would call healthy eating but nevertheless their rules must be followed) and some places, in fact most of them, require the breastmilk to be pasteurized.

D. Smith
May 24, 2012 7:10 pm

Yeah, it’s sad but there are few who DIDN’T know this is what would happen. Bury (table) it and forget it – the motto of the House and Senate lawmakers.

Still, many folks were hopeful that it might go places, because I saw several postings about it all over the ‘net this morning. It’s apparent to everyone but our lawmakers that something needs to and has to be done about this travesty/sham called the FDUh, but no one in power is going to actually come out in support of doing anything.

There are probably more tabled motions,… Read more »

May 24, 2012 7:26 pm

of course, you can always out-source it … millions of lactating humans being in 3rd Woild Countries would be only too happy to exchange a pint or 2, for Federal Reserve Notes. Just FedEx it … Ain’t globalism wonderful?! Never mind that the last batch of baby formula had melamine in it = The FDA’s position is that a little bit of that industrial waste-product won’t hurt your baby … and have they ever lied to you before?

D. Smith
May 24, 2012 8:05 pm

I’ve been following it on

At least they only tabled it (heh, as if it matters, right?) – most of the others were out and out rejected. Just a matter of time before this one is, too. I’ve also been following the money trail on S. 3187 (overall, not just Paul’s amendment proposition). Scott Brown – biggest taker with five hundred and some odd thousand so far. No wonder everyone wants to “work” for the gubment . . .

D. Smith
May 24, 2012 8:14 pm

Yep. Our gubment never met an FDA “position” it didn’t like – with the exception of Rand Paul and Ron Paul, it would seem. Imagine that.

“Scared of a little melamine”, the FDA chants? “Ah heck, the stuff was found in minute amounts in the baby formula – so what? Collateral damage, don’t worry about it right now. Later we’ll make up more lies to cover past lies, which covered past lies” . . . and so forth. But the FDA claims they’re toothless against the gubment. Uh-huh.

Sylvia Gibson
Sylvia Gibson
May 24, 2012 9:50 pm

I see you can make some pocket change from selling it. Beware the regulators will be stepping in….. Wonder how they “process” it?

mark mcafee
May 24, 2012 10:14 pm

Rand Paul does good!! must watch this.

Disarming the FDA ( no more FDA armed agents on our farms and decriminalizing the making of medical claims on food! Hallaluya!!

We are tipping the balance…


D. Smith
May 25, 2012 12:30 am

The trouble with the court system playing the blame game with parents and children’s rights is that parents are not equipped with a crystal ball, and children don’t come with an instruction manual.