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Beef thefts on the rise nationwide as record-high prices disrupt Americans' food supply


Beef theft

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(NaturalNews) As beef prices climb to record highs, more and more people are resorting to shoplifting to get their hands on it.

A recent CBS News article reported on the trend, pointing out the fact that meat is the most popular food item for thieves. The problem is becoming worse as the cost of beef increases, with grocery stores across the country now facing huge losses from beef theft.

Jamie Schweid's family business, Schweid & Sons Burgers, has been around for four generations, so Jamie has seen the change from the 1970s, when beef was cheap and plentiful, to the present day in which beef is scarce and prices have hit all-time highs.

Schweid said:

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.

Where's the Beef?

The average price of steak is now more than $7 per pound. One of the factors driving the rise in beef prices is an increased demand due to the popularity of high-protein diets, which in turn drives up the price of cattle feed.

The recent droughts in the Midwest and elsewhere have also contributed to the price increases. In Australia, one of the leading exporters of beef to the United States, prices have risen 40 percent this year due to drought.

The theft of beef from grocery stores has become such a widespread problem that many stores are considering adding anti-theft devices to meat packaging, such as in the moisture-absorbing pads that are placed under the meat.

The financial losses due to beef theft are considerable.

From TIME.com:

The thefts include $400 worth from a pair of Walmarts in Corpus Christi, Texas, a $170 meat heist at a Kroger store in West Virginia, $600 worth of meat stolen from two Price Chopper stores in Vermont, a supermarket break-in in Washington state in which a thief allegedly made off with $4,000 worth of meat (and some Hot Pockets) this past summer, and on and on.

Rustling on the rise

The beef is disappearing not only from the grocery store shelves, but from cattle ranches as well. Most of us think of cattle rustling as a phenomenon associated with bygone days, but it has never disappeared entirely.

In these times of beef shortages and high prices, the practice has again become widespread in cattle ranching states such as Texas, Oklahoma and Iowa.

Calves are easy to steal and can be worth as much as $1,300 at an auction.

John Cummings, a special ranger for the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, said about calves:

"Sometimes they [have] no brands, no ear tags, nothing. So they're a little easier to steal physically, and they're sometimes easier to sell without detection, because they are not marked and they are hard to identify."

The special rangers for the association handled 800 cases last year involving 5,800 cattle worth more than 5.7 million.

In the old days, cattle rustling was a hanging offense. Now, the penalties are less severe, but rustling is a felony and can land you in jail for a very long time. For example, Carl Curry was convicted of stealing more than 2,000 livestock. He will be in jail for the next 119 years unless his appeals are successful.

The good news is that Jamie Schweid predicts: "In about the next year or so, there is going to be more cattle available in this country, so there should be cheaper beef."

According to CBS:

"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."

Sources:
NewYork.CBSLocal.com
TIME.com
Fortune.com
NPR.org

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