The author operates a dairy farm at Brainerd, Minnesota.

My father used to recite an old saying now and then, "What's good for the goose is good for the gander." What this phrase means is that what is good for the goose is good for everybody else.

Recently, I noticed a strange trend occurring in the grocery stores. When in the frozen food section, I happened to observe that the largest supplier of ice cream in our region had made a very subtle change in product packaging. Their family-size 5-quart pail was no longer 5 quarts. Instead it had changed without any fanfare to 4.3 quarts.

Just as I was making this observation, Kirk Sattazahn's article, "Peanut butter's bump delivers less," came out in the October 10 issue on page 649. As he discussed in that issue, the funny thing about that new family-size pail was that the price of the pail never really went down. Maybe it dropped by a dime, but it seemed to hover in price just about where the old family size did.

Meanwhile, the competition continued to sell 5-quart family-size buckets for a few months and then succumbed to the pressure. Soon all the companies except one had changed their packaging.

What about shipped milk?
Now, to my point. What's good for the goose is good for the gander. We need to level the playing field. We can do that by introducing a new standard measurement, a new hundredweight, if you will. The new hundredweight would weigh 84.3 pounds. Since we all get paid by the hundredweight, we would get the same price as we did for the heavier, 100-pound version. In this new age of marketing where somatic cell count standards and bacteria standards are changing all the time, business decisions are simply just a matter of definitions and redefining parameters. We should introduce this new hundredweight parameter - call it the Midi - without any fanfare or notice. Then, just like they did with the family-size ice cream pail, we can lower the price by a dime.

I suppose this will take processors totally off guard, and they may not be very happy with this arrangement, but what can they say? They did the same thing to us. So the processors will just have to adjust to the situation the same way the rest of the public does when they are pushed around. Or, in other words, get used to it.

Besides, the hundredweight has changed once before. Under the old British Imperial System it was 112 pounds. Even under our current system it is sometimes called a short hundredweight; so why not make an updated version?

Now, the Midi is only one stage of a new modern pricing development. In case that family-size pail gets any smaller, dairy farmers could still reserve other marketing counter strategies. For example, the minihundredweight and the microhundredweight could be adopted in a moment's notice. We need to keep those new measuring standards at our beck and call in case of an emergency.

Adopting the Midi will solve a lot of our financial problems almost overnight. No longer will we have to worry about having enough money to fix tractors, to buy tires for equipment, and to do badly needed maintenance on dairy electrical systems. For once we will make a profit. We will be able to retain our valuable employees and not have to worry about them taking other jobs. We will enjoy farming again.

So keep this strategy in mind. When other companies incorporated the tactic, it was considered in their boardrooms a stroke of marketing genius. We don't have to be geniuses to get smart and do the same thing. Just remember one thing: If it's good for the goose, it's good for the dairy farmer.

This article appears in the January 10, 2011 issue on page 32.