Meat theft on the rise in U.K.

Sheep stand in a field as the sun sets in the Cotswolds on October 28, 2011 in Whittington, England.

Jeremy Hobson: Have you ever thought about pocketing a fillet steak when you were in the supermarket? In the U.K., meat theft is on the rise and it's not just hungry individuals -- we're talking fully fledged organized crime gangs. And it doesn't stop at supermarket meat either.

In today's Mid-day Extra, here's the BBC's Sarah Stolarz with more.


Sarah Stolarz: The price of steak and lamb has shot up in the U.K. recently. And as a result, theft of fresh meat jumped close to 10 percent last year, according to the Centre for Retail Research in the U.K.

And it isn’t just hungry shoppers lifting a lamb shank here and there. Signs are pointing to organized crime -- large quantities of the same product are being stolen at the same time.

In an effort to tackle the growing problem, U.K. supermarkets have started slapping security tags on chicken legs and even minced meat. Think those anti-theft devices usually reserved for alcohol bottles or high-priced clothing.

Plus, some criminals are going even farther, cutting out the middle man and heading straight to the farm to make the theft.

Tim Price is from rural insurer NFU Mutual.

Tim Price: They are being very quickly slaughtered and butchered and then sold on as meat to smaller retailers or somehow larger retailers.

It is estimated that 67,000 sheep could have been stolen last year, costing farmers more than $8 million.

As food prices continue to soar, some farmers are putting up spy cams in their fields to catch thieves. Does this mean scarecrows could be out of a job?

From London, I am the BBC's Sarah Stolarz for Marketplace.

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