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Meat theft increases amid panic buying

Meat is now one of the most-stolen fresh-food products from Australian supermarkets and specialty stores.

The latest Australian and New Zealand Retail Crime Survey reports an increase over the years in theft of meat compared to other goods.

“We are a very busy IGA group of stores in Victoria and have experienced an increasing amount of theft particularly with meat, the trend seems to be getting worse with thieves becoming more creative with concealing stolen items,” said Jim Jowett operations manager at Champions IGA.

Mark Stafford, northern region sales director of Checkpoint Systems, said that thieves have become bolder in stealing larger bulks of meat during the past few months. He added that they monitor the situation more as they gain more understanding of the thieves’ tactics. As the economy takes a downfall, theft activity increases, he said.

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the meat sector as thieves moved from stealing prime cuts to other types of meat. He said that the increase in robbery is possibly attributed to the financial pressures and panic buying in supermarkets. It is not merely due to the survival of having food to eat, but it stems more from the psychological repercussions of “financial worry, frustration and anger”.

Meat theft can affect retailers significantly as it may lead to potentially frustrating honest customers, apart from costing profit. He added that if the supermarket is not aware the product is out of stock, customers will be irritated and switch to shopping in other stores where it is available.

Stafford shared how plenty of retailers now are using Radio Frequency (RF) technology to protect their products, by incorporating it into prime cuts’ labels or weigh scale labels. There are Australian stores who have applied this tactic which have led to a reduction in shrinkage of more than 45 per cent and recovered more than 26 per cent in profit.

Using the RF technology and improving on excellent customer service to identify obscure shopping behaviour and training staff with the right knowledge on how to deal with robbery will help businesses ensure that their meats are well stocked in supermarket shelves.

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