Defending Without Being Defensive

I love people and I love to talk to people. Actually, I love to talk in general. My grandpa calls it “the gift of gab,” and I definitely have it! As an “agvocate,” one of my favorite topics to talk about is, of course, agriculture. There are days though, when I see Facebook or Twitter posts from people who are misinformed about this important topic, and it makes it hard to not get defensive.

Pictures like this one I saw on Facebook…


Example of a false infographic

Send all kinds of emotions through me. Anger, frustration, and complete disbelief. I want so badly to comment, yell, and pound into their head how wrong they are to believe these things. Sometimes it takes a few moments to step back and realize arguing with them and shouting, “You’re wrong!” won’t get the kind of reaction I want.

When doing research for my internship with Farm Bureau, I came across this article by Cassie Davis, an Arkansas dairy farmer. In her article she quotes Carlton Munson saying, “The moment a person becomes defensive, learning ceases.”

And it’s true.

The moment I start to yell and holler at a person telling them what they believe is wrong, they will stop listening to me and my message will be lost. I can’t let my emotions get the best of me if I truly want someone to hear what I have to say.

So please believe me when I say I am not trying to force my beliefs down your throat. I want you to hear what I have to say to combat this awful ad:

1. There are not actually pus cells in milk
Cows can get an infection in their mammary glands called mastitis. When and if this happens, the cows are treated with antibiotics. During the cow’s treatment, the milk containing antibiotics is dumped until all traces of it are gone. Many sanitation and prevention methods are taken to make sure your milk is safe, healthy, and pus-free. Read more about this here or from this dairy farmer.

2. Hormones in milk will not hurt you
Bovine somatotropin (BST) is a naturally occurring hormone found in the pituitary gland of cattle. This hormone triggers nutrients to increase growth in young cattle and milk production in dairy cows.  Artificial BST (called rBST) is used to increase milk production. However, the levels of using this artificial hormone are much lower than the levels of naturally occurring hormones already found in milk. These hormones will not hurt you, but if you’re still worried, many milk companies actually will not accept milk using this artificial hormone. In the store, milk without it is labeled “rBST/BGH free”. Read more here.

3. There are no antibiotics in milk
This one drives me crazy. Simply put, no milk contains antibiotics. The only chance of you consuming antibiotics in milk is if you buy raw milk (which is actually illegal in many states). Antibiotics are used in dairy cattle. When this happens, however, those cows are milked separately and then their milk is thrown away. If a trace of antibiotics is found in the milk tank collected by companies, it is all thrown away and the dairy farmer is out a lot of money. To read more about this process go here.

4. Feces is not found in milk
I’m not even sure what to say about this one except it is wrong. Sanitation is a huge part of diary farming both before and after the cows are milked. If you would like some insight into how a cow is milked, go here.

5. Milk is good for you
The truth is, milk offers many nutrients your body needs and can readily absorb. You can find out about the truth about milk here and read about milk alternatives here.

If you don’t know what to believe or want to know more about the foods farmers produce, ask them! Don’t resort to infographics covering your social media walls for “facts”. There’s no better resource than the farmers who are actually making the product, and they want to talk to you! If you can’t find one locally to talk to in person, use resources such as:

Bottom line:
Don’t only listen to what I’m saying. Be informed, do your research, and make your own decisions about the products you consume.
If you are an advocate for agriculture, learn to tell your story to others by being proactive instead of reactive. Be mindful of others’ feelings. And learn to defend your side of the story without becoming defensive.


My grandparents dairy-farmed for 35 years right before I was born. Here’s a little throwback of my mom in the milk barn!


Nice hair, Mom. 🙂





2 thoughts on “Defending Without Being Defensive

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