"Our strategy has and always will be to deal with sound science on these issues," said the association's communications chief, Daren Williams. "That's the bottom line. But we've adjusted our strategy accordingly to adapt to whatever latest communications vehicle helps us get accurate information to consumers the quickest."
It will need those tools to win back customers such as West Hollywood blogger Gretchen Schneider, 36. Formerly a vegetarian, she went back to eating meat a decade ago. But she's once again avoiding beef because of the recent barrage of bad news.
"I've done a lot of research; I know that there's a much greater chance of getting a food-borne illness from a vegetable than a meat," Schneider said. "But it becomes an emotional thing."
Historian Ogle said the industry should always be ready to play defense, because its critics "are always going to be on the attack."
The next crisis might be brewing already. This week, California state Sen. Ted W. Lieu (D-Torrance) sent a letter to the USDA calling for an investigation over a binding agent called transglutaminase, or "meat glue," that helps patch pieces of meat together.
So far, beef industry representatives said they haven't heard much outcry on the topic.
"Controversies have been distorted and blown out of proportion," Ogle said.
But "the meat industry," she said, "needs to understand that this is the new normal."