Creative Commons License photo credit: AlexDixon

A Tale of Two Milks

By Stanley A. Fishman, Author of Tender Grassfed Meat

Raw milk, which I prefer to call real milk, is very controversial today. This is a story of two kinds of milk: the swill milk made from distillery garbage that caused death; and the real milk from grassfed cows, that gave life. These two milks had a tremendous impact in the life of my grandfather, who became the first member of his family to be a dairy farmer.

My Grandfather

My grandfather, Abraham Fishman, was the most competent man I ever met. It seemed he could do anything: from painting a house; to fixing a car; to prospering during the Great Depression; to starting business after business that was always successful; to teaching himself how to speak English without an accent (though he had emigrated from Russia when he was 14, and never went to school).

Grandfather was also the most intimidating man I ever met. As a child, I was terrified of him. He never yelled, and never was violent. He was a small man, whose growth had been stunted by a lack of food in his childhood. But there was a grim intensity about him that everybody noticed. Nobody ever messed with grandfather. He never smiled; I don’t think he knew how. But there was a reason for the grimness. Grandfather was the oldest of eleven children born in Russia. He had watched each one of his ten brothers and sisters die in Russia. None of them reached the age of five.

Why the Children Died

When he was a child, my father asked Grandfather why the children died. Grandfather answered with two words; “Bad milk.”

My grandfather was born in a small town near Odessa, in Tsarist Russia. His family was very poor, and there were many times when there was not enough to eat. His father pickled all kinds of vegetables and sold them to people who were almost as poor as he was. There was a vodka distillery nearby. It made vodka from grain. The garbage left over from making the vodka was used to feed cattle at a nearby dairy. That dairy sold the cheapest milk available, the only milk grandfather’s family could afford. My great-grandparents did not know why their children got sick and died; their life was a constant struggle to find food for their family. There was nobody to tell them that unpasteurized swill milk was deadly for children.

It was a bad time to be a Jew in Russia. There were huge problems: food shortages; unrest; strikes; times were bad for everyone. The government blamed “the Jews” for all the problems. This led to pogroms, riots in which many Jews were killed. One day there was a pogrom in Grandfather’s hometown. My great-grandfather was chased by a mob howling for his blood. He turned a corner and was hidden under a stack of hay in a wagon by two of his Christian friends—just like in a movie. The mob could not find him, and he lived. But that was enough, he sold everything he had and scraped up enough money to immigrate to Canada.

Grandfather Becomes a Farmer

Grandfather was 14 when they reached Canada. They lived in a small town near Winnipeg, Manitoba. Grandfather did not go to school, but taught himself to speak English by watching Vaudeville shows and listening to people talk. He had no accent. He also learned to read and write English. He spent a lot of time at the library, reading and studying. After a couple of years, his mother became pregnant. Grandfather went to work for a local dairy farmer. By the time his sister was born, Grandfather had his own small dairy farm.

Grandfather’s Rules for Safe Milk

When I was ten, Grandfather told me about his dairy farm. He got up at 3:00 am each morning to milk the cows, using a lantern as it was dark. Once the cows were milked, he loaded the milk bottles into a big icebox in his truck, and drove the milk to each of his customers. The milk had to be on their doorstep before breakfast. People drank the milk the same day it came out of the cow. People would leave the empty bottles on their doorstep with payment so grandfather could pick them up as he delivered the day’s milk. When Grandfather got back, he would take the cows to pasture. Later he would bring them back to the barn, go to bed as early as he could, and get up at 3:00 am the next morning. Grandfather did this every day, seven days a week.

I had learned about pasteurization in school, and I asked Grandfather when the milk got pasteurized. He looked at me and said: “That would ruin the milk.” I asked him if the milk was safe. Grandfather stared at me with his grim face and said: “Nobody ever got sick from my milk. Milk is safe if you follow the rules.” Grandfather then explained the rules for safe milk.

The first rule was: Never use milk from a sick cow. I asked Grandfather how he knew if a cow was sick. He said that you had to know each cow, and if you knew the cow, you could tell if it was sick.

The second rule was: Never let anything dirty get into the milk. Grandfather always examined what he called “the milking area” before he started milking. If there was any dirt anywhere, he cleaned it before milking.

The third rule was: Keep everything clean. Grandfather always boiled the milking pails and bottles before he put any milk in them.

The fourth rule was: Keep it cold. Grandfather would keep the milk in the icebox of his truck until it was delivered to his customers.

The fifth rule was: Keep the cows on the pasture so they could eat the living grass and plants. During the winter, when it was too cold to graze, Grandfather would feed them hay. Grandfather said eating the grass that the Almighty intended them to eat—kept the cows healthy.

The Blessings of Good Milk

My Grandfather had three sisters born in Canada. Each of them grew up strong and healthy on Grandfather’s milk.

When his last sister was 5, Grandfather sold his dairy farm, and moved on. He started a number of businesses, every one of which was successful. He even prospered during the Great Depression. He became wealthy, and retired at age 40. But money was not everything. He told my father that the best time of his life was when he had the dairy, and was getting up at 3:00 each morning to milk the cows. My father was surprised, and asked why. Grandfather said that making good milk that made children grow up strong and healthy was the best thing he ever did, and he should never have done anything else.


Stanley Fishman, Author Tender Grassfed Meat Cookbook

Stan Fishman is the author of Tender Grassfed Meat. His book describes in detail how to cook grassfed beef, grassfed bison, and grassfed lamb. The book follows the nutritional principles of Dr. Weston A. Price, and uses only the best natural ingredients. The book can be purchased through  Amazon.com.

See also Mark McAfee’s video, The Two Raw Milks in America.