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Most Stolen Products: Meat


Shoplifters prefer Certified Angus, and some add fine cheese on the side.


It may not be the most easily stolen item in the store, but it's still one of the most-stolen.

The item to which we refer, is meat.

Meat used to be lower down on the most-stolen list, with over-the-counter medications containing pseudoephedrine (one of the crucial ingredients in crystal meth production) in its place. But after law enforcement cracked down in 2005 on meth-making and laws were passed requiring stores to move those medicines off shelves accessible to shoppers, meat moved up in some rankings, nearing the top spot.

Reports have shown meat thieves to have extravagant tastes -- apparently, the Certified Angus brand is popular with shoplifters. And they like to pair it with a nice cheese, as evidence has appeared that pricier varieties, such as Parmesan, disappear at the hands of the sticky-fingered quite frequently.

How exactly do large, unwieldy cuts of meat get burgled, you ask?

Rhett Asher, head of loss prevention for the Food Marketing Institute, a Washington-based group representing food retailers nationwide, says, "I've seen some strange ways that people have tried to get meat out of stores. I've seen heavy people put the meat between their legs, say, under a skirt, and walk out. I've seen a mother put slabs of meat in her baby carriage and then put the baby on top."

In the "Down the Pants" category, we have the tale of a 22-year-old man caught at a grocery store in Mary Esther, Florida, who was stopped by employees who noticed he "looked suspicious."

He was found to have shoved three pounds of bacon down the front of his trousers, and was charged with retail theft and resisting property recovery by a retail merchant.

Just this past April, Hector Ocampo-Lopez, of Elizabeth, New Jersey, loaded up a landscaping trailer with $35,000 worth of Boars Head lunch meat from a delivery truck parked outside a self-storage facility, but was caught after sharp-eyed witnesses were able to provide police with a partial license plate number.

Ocampo-Lopez was apprehended in the Union County jail, where he was already serving time on an unrelated charge.

Then there's the curious case of one Mark Zachary of Orangeburg, South Carolina, who was busted with $80 worth of New York strip steak under his shirt.

The manager confronted Zachary about the bread-box-sized object hiding in plain sight, before Zachary fled -- directly into the arms of an off-duty police officer who was entering the store to do some shopping.

At trial, Zachary presented a novel defense: He denied that he intended to steal the meat, but rather, was merely "massaging it."
Lest you believe it's only individuals stealing meat for personal consumption, consider this: There's been an astonishing number of organized shoplifting syndicates caught stealing meat for resale.

Fred Tarasoff, a leading authority in retail loss prevention who heads Fred Tarasoff & Associates, a Canadian retail loss-prevention consultancy, and has been featured in publications including the Small Business Report, Grocer Magazine, and Hardware Magazine, writes:

An employee of a grocery store was closely working with another restaurant by supplying them with cases of stolen meat. Every day or two the employee worked out a system whereby he would sneak out a case of frozen meat and then would supply a small restaurant with the goods. For more than a year the employee thief [had] been successful without raising too much suspicion and it turns out that he [made] more money from reselling the stolen meat than what his regular job [paid].

And, in Center Point, Alabama, deputies stopped a car inside which they found sausage that had been stolen from an area Walmart (WMT). Investigators discovered that the suspects had been taking orders for meat from a local restaurant, then stealing to fill the orders.

Of course, there are as many points of view on retail theft as there are cuts of meat. Terrence Shulman, founder of the Shulman Center for Compulsive Theft and Spending, maintains that only 5% of shoplifters steal out of economic need and that the majority of shoplifters are people with addictive-compulsive personalities who have a great deal of "repressed anger" and exhibit "signs of other compulsive addictions, such as overeating, shopping, drug use, or gambling."

Whatever an individual's reason for stealing -- meat or otherwise -- the Sealed Air Corporation is doing its part to help combat "meat case shrink" with the Dri-Loc AC40 Theft Sensor Pad, a packaging component with an anti-theft device built right into the pad.

It will even stop guys like Mark Zachary from "massaging" meat out of grocery stores.

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