Why People Shoplift Meat

The Food Marketing Institute issued a report this month concluding that meat (followed closely by analgesics) is the most often shoplifted item. Now Slate has a piece that endeavors to explain the meat-lifting phenomenon:

    Meat’s dubious triumph is due in part to a law enforcement crackdown on methamphetamine use. Meat used to be the shoplifting runner-up to health-and-beauty-care items, a category that includes cough medicines containing pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient in home-cooked meth. In 2003, for example, a quarter of shoplifted products were HBCs, while meat took second place at 16 percent. But states began passing laws that require stores to move medicines containing pseudoephedrine behind secure counters. That was enough to cut the pinching of HBCs, which fell by 11 percent between 2003 and 2005.

The drop in HBC’s has shoved meat-lifting into the spotlight. Meat-lifters love “luxury” cuts like rib eyes, filet mignon and anything that says “Certified Angus Beef.” Crime never tasted so good. —MEGHANN MARCO

The Purloined Sirloin [Slate]


Edit Your Comment

  1. RandomHookup says:

    Actually, I just like the feel of a good rib roast in my pants.

  2. Scazza says:

    The topic is entitled “Why people shoplift meat” yet only explained why its passed HBCs…. I am still curious why people would actually shoplift meat, it just goes beyond reasoning imo…

  3. Well… it’s probably because they want to eat a good filet mignon but don’t want to actually pay for it. :)

  4. RulesLawyer says:

    Scazza: RTFA.

    “Store detectives speculate that these meatlifters feel entitled to have steak instead of hamburger on occasion, as a reward for their hard work; swiping an expensive bottle of dish soap doesn’t provide the same sense of satisfaction.”

    Note also the comments at the end of the original article re: employee “discounts.”

  5. robertseaton says:

    I am in the industry (grocery). They steal it to resell it to small resteraunts/bars who buy it for pennies on the dollar so they can keep their costs low. They can also easily trade it with the drug dealers who don’t seem to mind a good meal of new york strip and large shrimp. A full shopping cart of meat can easily have a retail value of $500-$800.

  6. Anonymously says:

    AFAIK, the restrictions on pseudoephedrine come from the Patriot Act(which royally pisses me off). I’d like to see some numbers on the “War on Meth” to see if the drug store restrictions have had reduced the amount of meth on the streets.

  7. Nemesis_Enforcer says:

    So when I was young working the ubiquitous grocery store bagger job required for all teen boys…we had a lady pass out about 5 steps from the door. We all freaked because it looked like she was pregnant. The manager went to check on her and while trying to wake her up, put his hand on her stomach and felt it was icy cold. So he pulls up the shirt she was wearing and reveals a frozen turkey. It was a nice hot July day in Virginia so it appeared that the shock of a frozen turkey on her bare skin made her pass out. Imagine her surprise when she woke up to see paramedics and a deputy sheriff standing over her!

  8. WindowSeat says:


    I’ve been in the restaurant business for the better part of twenty-five years and I’ve never been offered meat by a shoplifter. I have been offered meat by grocery store truck drivers, butchers that work in grocery stores, grocery store managers and grocery store stockers. The other side of the coin is the cooks, busboys, dishwashers etc. that try to take meat, seafood and liquor out of the place. Fun business. Shoplifters are small time, its the employees that take the lion’s share.

  9. Sirened says:

    That’s amazing that meat is the 2nd biggest shoplifted item. I’ll admit, as a kid I thought about stealing a few things. But the thought of shoving a beef roast down my pants just never occured to me.

  10. legotech says:

    When I worked at a grocery store, I’d get completely blown away by stuff people would take. We had an older couple in, bought like $200 in groceries, and yet we caught him with a $2 pack of pens in his pocket. He said he had the money, he just couldn’t help himself.

    Ocassionaly we’d catch someone trying to pass a counterfit $50 or walk out with a couple of steaks, but the majority was really stooooopid stuff.

    My favorite was the guy with cash in his pocket trying to steal a $5 bottle of asprin. Normally we’d just take it back, call the cops and make a report and then tell them they couldn’t come back to the store ever. Problem was, when this guy emptied his pockets, he had a dime bag of pot in there. So instead of buying the asprin and going home to smoke his weed, he went to jail for shoplifting AND possession :)


  11. aestheticity says:

    Are you doubters kidding? Meat’s a great thing to steal. It’s expensive; everyone can justify stealing it when they’re sucking down delicious finest steak, as opposed to, say, other foods or consumer items that may not be as universally and instantly satisfying, even if you really need it; it’s irregularly shaped and soft to fit in… wherever, instead of hard packaging that rustles; once you eat it there’s nothing left to incriminate you; and if you don’t want it someone else certainly will, for a price.

  12. martyz says:

    I think people just wanna be like ‘Pinto’ from “Animal House” — remember when Boon shoved the meat in his coat? Good times.

  13. hoosier45678 says:

    I don’t think it fits in with the luxury theme, but as a kid I would regularly lift beef jerky on my long walk home from school. It was a lot of flavor in an easily pocketable form.

  14. Tommi says:

    I think the consumption-fixation is to some extent overtaking the oral fixation. Stealing a good steak goes beyond the mouthful. Kinda reminds me of the scene in the movie The Matrix where “Cypher” or Joe Pantoliano is eating that steak and talking to Agent Smith. Has nothing to do with meth, I don’t think.

  15. I’m surprised that its such a big problem…I guess thats because I grew up on a farm and if I wanted a steak we’d go kill a cow.

    Anyway the name meatlifter makes me giggle like a little girl.