Meat Theft Is Rampant as Food Prices Rise in Canada

Whether it be steak, oysters, or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, food thieves rarely miss the chance to make some quick cash on the black market of food.

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Jan 13 2016, 3:00pm

Photo via Flickr user vew82

Any time the price of a product skyrockets, the opportunity for enterprising criminals to capitalize arises.

Whether it be honey bees, oysters, or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, food thieves rarely miss the chance to make some quick cash on the black market of food.

That's exactly what seems to be happening in grocery stores across Canada, where, for the fourth year in a row, food prices are climbing faster than inflation, especially where meat is concerned.

READ: Why Are Canadians Eating Less Meat?

Last year, a report by the Conference Board of Canada forecasted a significant drop in meat consumption for a number a reasons, chief among them being price. That trend appears to be continuing into the new year, with the cost of beef set to jump another 4 percent in 2016, according to Statistics Canada.

This confluence of factors seems contributing to a recent rash of grocery store thefts across Canada, where meat is being stolen in huge quantities and presumably destined for the black market. And according to retail food experts, these grocery heists are not the work of mere hoodlums.

"They sell the pieces of meat on the black market, and that is a big problem for us now," Florent Gravel, president of Food Retailers Association of Quebec, told CTV News.

And what's worse, CTV News reports, is that it would seem that restaurants and bars, who are just as affected by price hikes as consumers, may actually be complicit in these food robberies and buying the stolen meat on the black market.

READ: Thieves Have Stolen $15K of Prince Edward Island Oysters

Higher-end products like aged meats seem to be the main targets and grocers are doing what they can to protect their most valuable products. This includes adding one-dollar security tags to every single package of meat, which still costs less than absorbing the cost of theft.

"There is one [tag] in the package under the sticker," Bruno Menard, vice-president of grocery store chain IGA Louise Menard told CTV News, "[And] when there are boxes, we try to hide them in boxes."

In December, a similar trend emerged in Alberta, the steak capital of Canada, where grocers were struggling to keep up with the number of shopping carts stuffed with packaged meats being pushed right out the front door by ballsy, well-organised thieves.

Among the meat products most affected by the recent price hike are cuts like sirloin steak (15.8 percent), prime-rib roast (8.4 percent), ground beef (7.3 percent), and chicken (6.4 percent) which means that it may be time to brush up on your tripe-cooking skills.