NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) –– Shoplifting is a common crime in the United States, but the number one stolen item in the country may surprise you.
Believe it or not, it’s meat.
Experts say meat thefts are reaching an all-time high because beef prices have soared in recent years.
“People steal stuff because they need it,” Joe Giacalone, a former NYPD detective, said. “And also, people steal stuff because of greed.”
“You only have so much money you can spend on groceries, so if the cost of ground beef goes up 30 percent to 40 percent, you have two ways of eating beef — eating less, or in this case, stealing it,” Jamie Schweid, of Schweid & Sons Burgers, said.
Schweid is a fourth-generation beef purveyor, whose company specializes in custom-blended ground beef, CBS2’s Dave Carlin reported.
According to Schweid, there was an ample supply of cattle when his father started his business in the Meatpacking District in the 1970s — and beef prices were low.
The soaring sirloin prices are a sign of the times, according to Schweid. The popularity of high-protein diets, like the Atkins Diet, increases cattle feed costs.
More recently, the drought in the Midwest has also led to a dramatic rise in beef prices — and more meat thieves hitting the stores.
According to NYPD detective Joe Giacalone, beef burglars get creative, with their tactics routinely caught on surveillance video.
“They’ll put it on an eight-year-old or a six-year-old knowing that the police aren’t going to arrest them,” Giacalone said.
Some stores are even considering putting anti-theft packaging on their meat products — devices similar to sensors put on clothing.
While it may be a sad day when alarms have to be placed on meat–Schweid says things are looking up.
“In about the next year or so, there is going to be more cattle available in this country, so there should be cheaper beef,” Schweid said.
Experts say less female cattle will be used for meat products next year, allowing for more births, a larger cattle population — and ultimately, lower prices on meat.