Authorities fear Midwest beef thefts, if not stopped, could mean higher prices

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – The beef theft ring that the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office helped uncover over the past few months has resulted in a $9 million loss.

Sheriff Terry Wagner said Wednesday that authorities still haven’t identified all the victims, but he believes that thefts like these could affect local meat prices.

He said there is more potential for crimes like this because of how supplies are transported across the country.

“There are millions of trailers, sitting around in truck stops and loading areas of businesses that pretty easily could be stolen,” Wagner said.

The sheriff’s office and Homeland Security Investigations say about 45 meat thefts occurred in Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin since June 2021.

SEE ALSO: Where’s the beef? Nearly $400,000 worth missing after semi thefts in Nebraska

Doug Reisz, an investigator with the Department of Homeland Security, called the case an example of organized crime in the Midwest.

And he said it could affect the supply chain here if it continues.

“In the Midwest, beef is accessible, there’s minimal security risk, and it’s something you can get rid of fairly easily,” Reisz said.

He also said that in these types of markets, any loss is a big loss, especially with inflation.

“In these times, any loss can be significant,” he said, “which was one of the reasons we decided to take these guys down, arrest them early on and figure out the other aspects of the investigation.”

Rian Hall of Smoking Gun Jerky in Lincoln said beef prices have been rising since the pandemic started and have climbed even higher with inflation.

He said these thefts are just another thing making it harder to buy and sell beef products.

“Everything’s hurt our business.” Hall said. “Everybody is spending more money on gas and groceries, not as much on beef jerky. You talk about doing a brisket or something, they say, ‘Well, I can’t afford that right now.’ So, you can tell that the beef prices are affecting families.”

Hall is not surprised that someone would want to steal beef and other meats right now, with the value being so high.

“They’re probably making a lot of money, the people behind this,” he said. “Beef is expensive. You go to buy beef at the grocery store — whether it’s hamburger, steak, briskets — it’s through the roof.”

Investigators are still looking into who else is involved in the thefts and are working to take them down.

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