Top executives for Beef Products Inc. (BPI) admit that they had never heard of The Daily, a year-old news organization publishing primarily via iPad, before last month.
But with a March 5 story that reprised criticism of BPI's signature lean finely textured beef (LFTB),The Daily helped ignite a media firestorm that left the Dakota Dunes-based firm fighting for its life just three weeks later.
By the time BPI officials realized the fast-spreading avalanche of negative publicity was impaling their business, much of the damage was done.
"I don't think anyone of us had any idea that something like this was going to happen," BPI Vice President Regina Roth told reporters at a March 26 news conference where the company announced it had idled three of its four plants in the aftermath of losing more than half its sales.
After some early missteps, BPI mounted a counterattack, refuting misconceptions with the help of allies that included meat industry representatives, USDA officials and beef state politicians, who denounced the "smear" campaign against an employer that has produced a safe, nutritious product for more than two decades.
A March 29 event, in which three governors and two lieutenant governors toured BPI's South Sioux City plant and later tasted burgers containing LFTB, attracted national media attention. Hundreds of "Dude, It's Beef" shirts were printed, with the slogan serving as a rallying cry for hometown backers.
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