January 24

Meat: the most shoplifted item in America

18  comments

A current Slate article asks why meat is the most shoplifted item in America today. Maybe because it is the most nutritionally dense item in America today, so it runs one’s nutrition per theft percentages up.
Whatever the case, I can’t imagine sashaying out of a grocery store with a chuck roast in my pocket. Were I of the larcenous bent, I’m pretty certain that I could find something a tad less noticeable and easier to hide than a chunk of meat.
Money quote:

Every supermarket detective—or “loss-prevention specialist,” as many prefer to be called—has an offbeat meatlifting story to share. There’s the one about the lady who seemingly defied the laws of physics by stuffing an entire HoneyBaked Ham in her purse, the man discovered with a trove of filet mignons in his Jockey shorts, or the meth addict who explained that his dealer, exhibiting an atypical benevolent streak, had agreed to accept prime rib in lieu of cash.
Yet most shoppers who use the five-finger discount in the meat aisle are neither so brazen nor so desperate. Carts brimming with groceries, they’ll stealthily slide a single tenderloin or T-bone into a coat pocket, then hit the checkout line alongside their nonlarcenous peers. In this way, millions of pounds of beef, pork, and veal disappear from supermarket shelves each year. Meatlifting is a grave problem for food retailers: According to the Food Marketing Institute, meat was the most shoplifted item in America’s grocery stores in 2005. (It barely edged out analgesics and was a few percentage points ahead of razor blades and baby formula.)


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  1. Sir many thanks your link. Have sent to P and nodoubt they’ll follow up.
    ref meat pinching..yessum. When i was working at a night shelter for dealinq teenagers in LDN in 97 i heard stories of them going into supermarkets with a rucksack and simply throwing the choicest cuts in and swiftly running out. selling the cuts to rests massively marked down and then going to spend the cash on narcotics.
    Hi Simon–
    Will trade meat for drugs, I guess.

    Best–
    MRE

  2. here the answer to yr as to why her Quack put her on the stuff he has
    Having said that, I’m totally bewildered as to why a female would be taking an anti-prostate cancer drug along with birth control pills ?
    It’s because my initial symptom was hair loss. So the gyno checked my male hormones and they were high. A side effect of this prostate medication is decreasing the conversion of androgen that causes balding. This along with staying on the birth control pill was the prescription for balancing my male hormones. In the end, they have now whacked out my insulin and trigs. It’s crazy, may I find some sanity and sense soon
    Hmmm.

  3. Along with being nutritionally dense, there is probably something to the fact that it’s one of the more expensive groceries on the list.
    Hi Scott–
    No doubt that’s true.  I guess it’s economically dense as well. 
    Cheers–
    MRE 

  4. Dr. Eades –
    This is completely off topic (though I found this topic both interesting a bit humorous), so please excuse the misplacement.
    I am a weightlifter/bodybuilder (22, 5’6, 166lb,
    Hi Jonathon–
    Somehow your comment got truncated. Through no fault of my own, I might add.
    Cheers–
    MRE

  5. I knew a guy who would slip eggs in his pockets. (Eggs that cost maybe $0.88) He is also the same guy who steals chicken from Kroger- not to be confused with a high school acquaintance that was fired from said Kroger after stealing some sirloin.
    I kid you not.
    Unbelievable, but I guess it happens.
    Best–
    MRE

  6. A friend of mine confessed that she once tried to steal food. She said she didn’t have anything to feed her kids, and hadn’t for several days, and she figured if she was going to steal, she was going to make sure it was good food!
    Hi Cindy–
    I guess that not only is there honor among thieves, there is a sense of economic analysis as well.
    Cheers–
    MRE 

  7. It’s been a long time since I regularly shopped at typical supermarkets, but I seem to remember seeing those theft detection sticker things on some of the meat packages that cause detectors near the doors to buzz when the package leaves the store.
    Quite a few years ago while in loss-prevention training for a retail department store job, I was told that supermarket shoplifting was quite high. Guess not much has changed even as the average % of the household budget spent on food has gone down in the US. I also heard (no data, though) that the most frequently shoplifted items were Preparation H for hemorrhoids and certain prophylactic products, mostly because of embarrassment. Then again, with the militant vegan movements gaining ground, perhaps people are embarrassed or scared to be seen buying meat these days.
    Ciao,
    Anna
    Hi Anna–
    Preparation H?  Who woulda thunk it?  Potassium iodide (SSKI) works so much better, and no one would have a clue.
    Cheers–
    MRE 

  8. Speaking of meat, what is your position on offal, variety meats, non-skeletal muscle bits, etc. I have been developing quite an interest in this subject the last year or so (but alas the taste for it comes a bit slower and with a lot of good mustard) but am hampered as much by the availability of offal from local humanely and naturally raised animals.
    Today I found an offal good blog that might be of interest to you and your more traditional or adventurous readers.
    Ciao, Anna
    Hi Anna–
    Offal is not as awful as most people think.  It is basically meat, and inexpensive meat at that.  It contains fatty acids and other nutrients that plain old meat doesn’t.  Problem is, most people turn up their noses at it.  Hunter gatherers ate the whole carcass including the offal, so our genome was set in part by offal eating.

    Cheers–
    MRE 

  9. This is an easy one. Refer to your earlier post: “If you want to have a healthy life, it costs time, effort and money.”
    Sounds like in this case it at least costs the time and effort.  It could cost some jail time, too, if one is unlucky enough to get nailed.
    Cheers–
    MRE 

  10. More evidence for the paleo-human inside us all, trying to express itself! 🙂
    Hi John–
    You’re right.  It’s just another way of hunting and gathering.
    Cheers–
    MRE 

  11. Until recently I worked as a public defender in Fulton County, Georgia (Atlanta). I can assure you the title of this topic is correct. I lost count of the number of steak and lobster shoplifting cases I handled. OTOH we did get junk food cases also. The most pointless shoplifting case I ever handled involved 2 packs of ramen noodles ($0.74 total value).
    Hi Paul–
    I still can’t believe it, but I guess it’s true.  I’ve got to ask, did they throw the book at the ramen noodle thief?
    Cheers–
    MRE 

  12. If they would leave the cereal and Lays potato chips on the shelves, they could afford to pay for that filet mignon.
    Hi Mary–
    Someone just needs to educate them.
    Cheers–
    MRE 

  13. Mike–everyone, including the prosecutor, thought the ramen noodle case was a waste of time. The guy had a terrible record so he pled to disorderly conduct and was released.
    Hi Paul–
    Thanks for the update.  Not only a waste of time, but a waste of resources as well.
    Best–
    MRE 

  14. Hi Doc,
    So how do we go about educating people? It gets to be so frustrating that I can scream.I am planning on writing an article and sending it to my local newspaper.
    Thanks for the tip on whey protein BTW. I was avoiding its use because I thought that it wasn’t any good. Just for weightlifters. But when I saw your cooking show where you and Mary-Dan made the smoothies and waffles,you said that whey protein builds muscle even without exercise. I purchased my first bag of whey protein at the Whole Foods Market, yesterday.I found a smoothie recipe that used coconut milk and berries. I added some whey to that. The smoothie was delicious.
    Yours,
    Mary
    Hi Mary–

    How does one educate people?  All we can do it provide the information and hope they take advantage of it.
    Glad you liked the whey.
    Cheers–
    MRE 

  15. RE: Preparation H theft. Heard on Paul Harvey it was coke snorters who shoplifted it. and… You guessed it, used it up their noses for relief. *paul harvey knows everything LOL*
    Hi Jody–
    Thanks for the update.  Now I’ll know what to do next time I get cocaine nose.
    Cheers–
    MRE 

  16. I want to make things clear right off the bat: I steal preperation H and although I am not proud of it, I do find that rush in stealing something so cooling. I also steal meat and a lot of it, but I usually don’t eat it, but feed it to my pet chichuacha, or I put it on my eyes to stop puffiness – filet mignon works the best for anyone out there that is beauty conscious.
    Hmmm… 

  17. Hmm….common sense would say if you wanted to steal meat, like ribeye steaks or filet mignon, why not just switch labels with some cheap meat?
    for example, you grab a 20 ounce porterhouse steak thats 10.99 a pound and costs like $13. You grab a 20 ounce package of some crap beef thats like $2 a pound, (I am now a vegetarian and don’t eat meat, so I don’t remember the names of cheaper stuff, chuck or shoulder cut maybe?? ) whatever. Switch the labels. The go back to the meat department, and put that nasty chuck beef back down on the shelf with a $13 price tag on it now. You don’t appear to be stealing…heck, you just put something back on the shelf thats all.
    The cashier isn’t gonna look at it and go “this isn’t 99 cents a pound chuck roast, its a PORTERHOUSE!” and then call the police. She’s gonna mindlessly scan it, OR You will self scan it yourself and not appear to be stealing a thing.
    Good idea for a few reasons
    1. meats are packaged daily so the labels probably peel right off
    2. not the typical behavior the “undercover” store cops are looking for. They’re watching for people slamming meats into their coats or purses probably. All you did was walk around with 2 meat packages then decide not to buy one and put it back. Wont alarm them
    3. unless they physically watched you switch the labels, ie via camera or something, you can always just blame the meat department. Say they must’ve put the wrong label on it by accident.
    DISCLAIMER: I am NOT a thief, but I did graduate from an Ivy League school. I mean I’m not trying to think like a criminal, but if you have enough common sense, its alot easier to get away with things than traditional methods.
    Hi Dancing Nancy–
    Clever.  Perhaps you should write a book titiled Steal this Steak: Sort Of.
    Maybe people already do this.  If so, I would imagine the shoplifting statistics for meat would be even higher.
    Cheers–
    MRE 

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