Meatlifting: Why Americans Steal Meat From Grocery Stores

When asked about your most bizarre experience as a loss prevention manager, you will probably have enough stories to fill a book – especially in supermarkets and grocery stores where ladies are stuffing honey-baked hams into their handbags or guys packing as many Purloined Sirloins down their pants as can fit.

And while some stories are funny to recount later, stealing meat is a serious issue: Every year millions of pounds of beef, pork and veal disappears from the shelves.

Meat Most Attractive For Shoplifters

Meat, next to alcohol, is one of the higher-priced items in any grocery store — Purloined Sirloin being the hottest item.

According to Heather Garlich of the Food Marketing Institute, it is not surprising that “we’ve been witnessing a steady increase in theft of meat at retail for the last several years. [We know] from anecdotal discussions with our food retail and wholesale members, meat and health and beauty aids, are indeed the highest ranked products for ‘shrink.’”

Desperation Or Need Are Not The Primary Drivers

Whenever the issue of theft of food items is discussed, the general assumption is the culprit acted out of desperation or need to feed themselves. You feel yourself emphatizing with the shoplifter — even trying to somehow justify their crime.

However, most of the meat that is stolen are expensive cuts such as lamb chops, filet mignon or Angus beef. The meat-lifting is done by people who can afford to buy groceries but want to occasionally reward themselves (“I worked so hard, I deserve a good steak!”) or out of a false sense of entitlement.

According to a study conducted by the University of Florida, most meat is nipped by women between 35 and 40 years old — men prefer to steal batteries or other higher-priced items they could potentially resell to support a gaming or drinking addiction.

How Can You Protect Your Merchandise?

While retailers and drugstores have been locking up hot items — such as cough medicines containing pseudoephedrine, perfumes, and cigarettes — into secure display cases or behind safe counters, this is not entirely possible for meat.

Locking Away Is Not An Option

Most shoppers want to get their grocery shopping over and done with as soon as possible and prefer to help themselves at self-help cooler-cases. If grocery stores would force customers to grab a number and organize their shopping around the butcher line, shoppers would change their primary grocery store faster than you can say “Hi, what can I do for you today?”

Food-Safe Tagging Inside The Packaging

A more effective option is tagging your products for electronic article surveillance. The package must include a food-safe security tag that holds up to refrigeration and freezing, is microwave-safe and conforms with health- and sanitation standards.

Prosecution & Other Consequences

The most effective deterrent for theft is being prosecuted. However, most police departments are rather short-staffed and will not have the manpower to come and arrest every single person stealing $20 worth of steak. In Dallas, Texas stealing under $50 will not be pursued at all.

So, what is a store to do? Other than posting codes of conducts and barring past offenders from reentering their stores – there is not much retailers can do other than using loss prevention technology as a long-term deterrent to keep them from coming back.

Want To Learn More?

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