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Helping a Major Food Producer Strategically Combat Misinformation to Protect its Reputation

The Challenge:

One of the world’s largest privately held companies faced a reputational crisis when a major U.S. news network began questioning the safety and quality of its U.S. ground beef. The reports falsely speculated that the client was using potentially harmful chemicals to kill bacteria while processing the meat. The company’s reputation was further strained when activist shoppers began uploading videos of the company’s ground beef across Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube that questioned its quality and use of a filler, which they described as “pink slime.” As the videos went viral, speculation spread that most of the client’s ground beef was really “pink slime,” and consumers began questioning the safety of finely textured beef (FTB). The rapidly spreading misinformation campaign had such a negative impact on the client’s bottom line that it was contemplating shutting down its entire beef business.

The client turned to evolve24 to help it better understand the public’s perceptions and to identify and counter misinformation regarding its meat processing operations. It sought insights into the opinions of consumers regarding the use of lean, FTB techniques within its production – which reduce the amount of waste created when large pieces of raw meat are cut up and discarded. Our findings would help the client decide if it could overcome the false narratives spreading online in hopes of saving its declining beef business.


To understand the true impact of this story on the consumer base, we needed to collect all possible mentions and references to “pink slime” and other related industry terms such as finely texturized beef across the social media landscape. Collecting data from social media channels helped us build a data repository of consumer-driven conversations that allowed for deeper analysis of the debates taking place within. Once the data was collected, it was processed and analyzed for key concepts, emerging topics, sentiment, emotional intensity, and key risk drivers. Using the analytics and measurements provided by evolve24, we were able to cut through the noise to find the true consumer reactions, understand their concerns, and assess the business impact.


Through the data analysis process, it was discovered that consumers needed additional education on ground beef processing and the benefits of using finely texturized beef (FTB). The client leveraged our platform’s findings to launch a very effective educational campaign explaining how their process benefits the environment by reducing waste and increasing the yield of meat. Using FTB reduced processing costs the client was able to mitigate price increases for consumers while improving its own bottom line. The campaign resonated with wary consumers leading to an immediate turnaround in sales.

Further analysis of consumer reaction found that when the client explained what FTB is, how it is produced, and what benefits it provides, consumers had no issues with the USDA-approved process or the client’s beef product. However, our consumer research did indicate they wanted to know when FTB was included in the ground beef they purchased. These findings led the client to begin adding labels promoting its use of finely texturized beef to increase transparency about where consumer food is coming from. The labels, which are similar to organic labels placed on other grocery products, played a pivotal role in changing the perceptions of consumers.

In the end, our client used the insights it gained from evolve24’s platform and services to implement a crisis mitigation plan that educated consumers on the practices in ground beef processing and led to a positive bottom-line swing within their beef business that was measured in the billions of dollars.