DAKOTA DUNES, S.D. — An aid fund application deadline is looming for workers laid off by South Dakota meat producer Beef Products Inc.

The company set up a $10 million fund in September for employees who lost their jobs after the closures of three plants in 2012. The plants were shut down after media reports of a lean beef product that critics called “pink slime” led to a loss of millions of dollars in sales and a defamation lawsuit.

Applications for the support fund are due Saturday, the Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan reported . The company has already received more than 600 applications, said Rich Jochum, BPI’s general counsel.

The company laid off more than 700 workers and closed plants in Texas, Kansas and Iowa in 2012. BPI alleged that ABC News’ coverage of the company’s finely textured beef product misled consumers into believing the product was unsafe. ABC News defended its reporting.

BPI sought $1.9 billion in a 2012 defamation lawsuit against ABC News. The damage award amount could have tripled under South Dakota’s Agricultural Food Product Disparagement Act. BPI and ABC News reached a confidential settlement in June.

“As part of the figure received in its defamation lawsuit, BPI set up the $10 million fund,” said Christine Campbell, BPI spokesperson.

Applications will be evaluated based on a former employee’s length of service, unemployment benefits or any other benefits received. Factors that indicate the impact of a plant’s closure or job loss on an employee and their family will also be considered.

The company has not yet determined whether the application deadline will be extended.