Workers idled over what critics called 'pink slime' get help

The family that owns a South Dakota meat producer said Wednesday it has set up a $10 million fund for employees laid off when the company closed three plants in 2012 over reports of a beef product that critics dubbed "pink slime."

Dakota Dunes-based Beef Products Inc. announced the BPI Family Support Fund, aimed at helping the hundreds of laid-off employees and their communities.

The company laid off about 750 workers and closed plants in Amarillo, Texas, Garden City, Kansas, and Waterloo, Iowa, in 2012, saying ABC's coverage of the producer's lean, finely textured beef product misled consumers into believing the product is unsafe. ABC stood by its reporting.

BPI hopes to partner with organizations in affected communities to review applications for funds from former employees. The company plans to kick off the process next month, and criteria likely will include length of service, amount of potential unemployment and the impact of employment loss.

Only a Nebraska plant in South Sioux City remains open. Since three of the four plants are idle, the company's ability to rehire laid-off workers has been limited, but about 50 have been rehired so far, BPI spokesman Rich Jochum said.

BPI filed a $1.9 billion defamation lawsuit against ABC and the parties settled during trial in June. Terms are confidential but an attorney for the meat producer has said the settlement exceeded $177 million.