When it comes to marketing, I’m starting to believe that the dairy industry and agricultural as a whole might have missed the boat.

Perhaps we’ve been too focused on efficiency and providing safe and wholesome food for the nation that we’ve forgotten to market our products along the way. Lord knows, the volatility of our milk and feed prices have given everyone enough to worry about, let alone marketing.

Recently, two friends came to visit me from Wisconsin. During the visit, we took a trip to San Francisco. In the course of our adventures in San Francisco, we stopped to eat lunch at the Ferry Building. At some point in my perusal of the menu, I noticed that your everyday hamburger was tagged as “antibiotic-free” and “hormone-free.” But, instead of the now popular “grass-fed” beef, this restaurant had chosen to market its hamburgers as “vegetarian-fed.”

I have to admit while at first I was completely annoyed and frustrated by this new marketing concept, I now think that perhaps this marketing strategy and others are ingenious. Dairy cows are naturally herbivores and are fed diets of alfalfa and corn silage – “vegetarian-fed.”

One particular dairy on the coast here in California feeds mostly by-products and/or cast-offs from the fruit and vegetable processing plants in his area. Artichokes, he told me once, have similar nutritional qualities as alfalfa. This particular dairy might qualify for a marketing strategy all of its own, but you get the point.

There are many other marketing strategies that we see on competing products; an example is antibiotic-free. Why haven’t we taken advantage of them? Milk and dairy products are among the most tested and regulated foods in this country. All milk is strictly tested for antibiotics on the farm and at the processing plant. Any milk that tests positive is disposed of immediately and does not get into the food supply. All milk should be labeled “antibiotic-free.”

“All-natural,” is another one. What’s more natural than milk? Yet products we compete with, like soy and almond milk, are capitalizing on this marketing strategy.

Although I haven’t seen anyone use this yet, what about “farm family raised?” Ninety-eight percent of farms are individual or family-owned farms, family partnerships or family-owned corporations. You could even go so far as to put the face of the family farmer on the product.

It’s not like there is a shortage of marketing/advertising space on some of our products. Just look at the gallon of milk – three whole sides of empty white space just begging for a little creativity.

Let’s take a page from these ingenious marketers and start promoting our products like the quality products they are instead of like commodities.

By Megan Pierce, Dairy Herd Management