Sjostrom: An apology to The Original Muck Boot Company, and mankind

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Last night, at around 10:30 p.m. I wrote up a piece about The Original Muck Boot Company and its supposed donation to HSUS, a known animal rights organization, in “Muck Boot company wading with HSUS?” Please note the word “supposed,” and the question mark at the end of the title.

I had seen the post earlier in the day, and then saw a few more posts at 9:30 p.m. and wrote the article. At about noon, the company responded with an apology on Facebook. Here’s an excerpt:

“We would like to respond to our loyal customers…”
“…Family members of an employee who recently passed away requested that, in lieu of flowers, co-workers donate funds to the Humane Association of Northwestern Rhode Island…”
“…The money is not a corporate donation, but a collection of personal contributions from employees with the intent of remembering a beloved co-worker. While our intentions were good, the use of corporate social channels under these circumstances was inappropriate...”

I was wrong, and for my speculation I apologize. I hope anyone else who wrote a blog or article does the same. I might order new Muck Boots soon. I might not. I especially apologize that this was a human loss while I guessed it was a pet loss.

My modus operandi

Seeing no press information on the website, and that I had missed their customer service hours, I ran the commentary last night. Despite me targeting the company’s pages on both Facebook and Twitter, I’ve still heard nothing. I called customer service tonight (phone lines and internet signals were jammed at an event I attended all day today) around 7 p.m. I suggested to the kind woman on the phone that she had probably had a few calls about HSUS today, and told her that I was a reporter. She affirmed this, but said they were given no number for press or anyone else today. A release to squash all the rumors (my words, not hers) will be released tomorrow morning, she explained. I thanked her.

But, opening my internet browser tonight, I saw that people were rude and unkind to the Muck social media accounts. If I were Muck I would not want to interact with a bunch of jerks either.

Getting home, I assumed I would have something in one of my inboxes or voicemail when the internet caught up with me. Nothing. When I spoke poorly of Chobani marketing they emailed me information on how to get a free cup of yogurt. Bribery? Maybe (not really – the offer wasn’t just for press), but at least they tried.

Now, Facebookers are questioning the Muck response.

That’s fine, but I’ll take it at face value until tomorrow morning. The issue is a bunch of people called the local humane society that supposedly received the donation, but since there was no “Muck” donation they think its bunk. As someone who has donated things en masse before, it takes time to cash other people’s checks and then send a letter. And who knows what name that donation would be in since it is private?

Culture matters; share your values

For me, the interesting part about this is that I was going to write an editorial on the importance of company culture on the farm. This is a great example of why sharing values with our vendors is important. I think the popularity of last night’s article shows that others agree that shared values are important, so I will continue to write similar stories.

Muck did not do a good job telling their employees what was important to their customers (or the social media coordinator did not do a good job listening). It could be because they are large, or because they did not see the importance.

In contrast, one dairy farmer neighbor of ours forces any vendor he does business with to join our local milk producers association as an associate member if they want to do business on his farm. That’s shared values. Guess what, it works – they’re all members at some level of their choosing.

Sorry, fellow humans

I hate feeding the beast of our 24-hour news cycle like I did last night, but there were hundreds of comments and shares and 4-days passed before anything was addressed. If someone would have written “Oops, we tagged the wrong Humane Society and meant XXXXXX and it was actually not a company event” on Friday, they could have saved face instantly.

So, to human kind – I’m sorry that we care about the wrong things. My article received the most views of nearly any I’ve written so far, and we’re just 24-hours in. We write about market-moving and industry-changing events with much less fanfare. Humans love controversy, it seems. Tabloids still sell.

I am sorry that Muck Boots doesn’t have any way for press to get in touch with the company. I could have found out the full story around 8 a.m. and updated everyone sooner.

I am sorry that some people immediately put Muck in the doghouse without hearing the full story. If Muck does support us, and to me it appears that they do, why are we abandoning a friend when they’re down? If we could put Muck out of business overnight, that means one less company that can help us wage war. It would be one less group of employees who might care about us when our way of life is on the line.

I am sorry we feel like targets so often. But I don’t think making more enemies will help us be targeted less frequently.

I am sorry this entire situation happened. But it drives me to educate one more person tomorrow about agriculture and the façade of HSUS. Learn more at

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About the Author

Lucas Sjostrom
| Lucas Sjostrom is assistant editor of Dairy Herd Management, and writes from above a working milking parlor. Sjostrom grew up on a south-central Minnesota dairy and crop farm that is still in operation by his grandparents, parents, and younger brother. After completing an animal science degree at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, he took a government relations and communications position with Holstein Association USA in Brattleboro, Vt. Two years later, he became associate editor at Hoard’s Dairyman magazine. Currently, Sjostrom concurrently serves on Dairy Herd Management staff and is finishing graduate work in animal science focusing on precision dairy technology. Lucas and his wife, Alise, live on her home farm with their daughter. Alise’s parents milk 180-cows and the family operates a farmstead cheese plant called Redhead Creamery.

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USA  |  August, 06, 2014 at 02:07 AM

Are you really calling yourself a "reporter?" Allow me to break it down for you: their press department hasn't called you back because you are a blogger (NOT a reporter) and they appear to realize that fact. A true journalist would never have made such grossly wild assumptions and grandiose claims without clarifying or providing any context for your accusations. You embarrass yourself. And by the way, your apology means nothing without removing or, at the very least, amending your original post with a correction AT THE TOP of that post. Welcome to Journalism 101. Might like to acquaint yourself with some of the basic tenets of journalism before you go around calling yourself a member.

August, 06, 2014 at 02:34 AM

B~ You may want to do some investigative work yourself...or were your absent during that lesson of Journalism 101?

new york  |  August, 06, 2014 at 06:41 AM

B I think you misunderstand what muck has done. No matter what they say now is just CYA mode. The charity they claim to have given the money to has not received it yet, so where did that money go? By allowing their employees to post this statement on their facebook page without checking the content has done major damage to their brand. Yes people are upset, you must not be a farmer otherwise you would be too. For muck to make such a donation to an organization that is on the record saying they want to do away all animal agriculture all livestock farmers should be upset. I for one will not buy another muck product until they show a long term commitment to battle USHS.

South Dakota  |  August, 06, 2014 at 06:58 AM

Lucas- Everyone makes mistakes. We are human. Life is not perfect. I commend you for admitting your mistake, and doing the right thing here. All the best! Robin

Steph O    
Auburn, AL  |  August, 06, 2014 at 09:25 AM

Kudos to you. No one is perfect, and in terms of damage control it is always best to acknowledge errors as soon as possible, as you did. Your retraction was prompt, and thoughtfully and sincerely stated. There is a Turkish saying I learned recently that says something like, "No matter how far you have gone down a wrong road, turn back." I think you did so promptly and well, at the first clear signs that you were following misleading information.

ny  |  August, 06, 2014 at 09:33 AM

Get your S--- Together. I won't give your information any credit in the future.

Oregon  |  August, 06, 2014 at 11:18 AM

To err is human. Keep up the good work, Lucas. You are an authentic voice for dairy farming and ag.

Madison, WI  |  August, 06, 2014 at 11:29 AM

Lucas,,, As a journalist, you just cannot write untruths or half truths and expect the accused to make things right. Bloggers and social media can and does it all the time -but. a true journalist cannot. They can do it, as you did, but the respect for what you later write could be severely damaged. Spend some time with Editor Dave and take notes. John

USA  |  August, 06, 2014 at 11:53 AM

I re-read your original post and honestly feel you were pretty careful. The only incorrect point you made was thinking the memorial was for a pet, not a fellow employee. There are still a lot of unanswered questions. Muck missed many opportunities to play this situation differently. They certainly underestimated how offensive this is to farmers, and their apology didn't address the ag community directly in any way. I for one am still waiting and hoping that they extend an olive branch. I love their products and need a reason to come back.

Anacortes, WA  |  August, 06, 2014 at 05:01 PM

In any event, the local Humane Associations run animal shelters and are not the same as HSUS. Little of HSUS money goes to shelters. That is one of the reasons to oppose them. You ought to check your facts better before sounding off.

Missouri  |  August, 11, 2014 at 11:57 PM

What you fail to recognize is that the organization Muck claims to have made the donation to is just as bad as HSUS. They do not support hunters, farmers or breeders/caretakers of any animals. Most of their agenda they have on their web site mirrors that of HSUS. If you are going to participate in an industry where your customers are farmers, ranchers, horsemen, sportsmen, etc., you should know who the enemy is and be able to train your employees to know these facts. Further, people who have been in contact with the Muck front office are getting responses and they are mainly excuses. Muck deserved what happened to them. They deserve to have what will transpire in the future happen to them. This will serve as a warning to other companies out there: Either you are with us or against us when it comes to the animal rights organizations. Plus they had better know who the enemy is and not support them in any way.

clair a pederson    
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