IT appears record high retail beef prices have prompted big supermarkets to implement heavier security measures.
Or it could be the shift to self-scanning and do-it-yourself checkouts that is creating the need to crack down on thieves.
Either way, consumer and social welfare commentators online are saying it’s a sad indictment when we have to ensure nobody steals meat, an Australian food staple.
Tags have appeared on prime cuts in Coles supermarkets saying the product is “security protected” and urging consumers to ensure all packaging is removed before microwaving.
They were first noticed by shoppers in Melbourne last year and now they seem to have spread across western Sydney stores.
Coles won’t talk about the measures - no doubt they appear unsavoury to the average law-abiding customer - apart from a rather uninformative one line statement: “Electronic article surveillance (EAS) tags are one of a range of security measures we have in place to reduce theft from our stores.”
Coles won’t say how far it intends to roll out the security protected chilled food program - nor what the policy is for dealing with those caught redhanded.
However, Coles store workers, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said there had been an increase in thefts of beef products since prices started going up last year.
Asked if the self-scanning trend contributed to that, the response was “most definitely.”
And the measures had indeed nabbed thieves, they said.
The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics indicative retail beef prices averaged $19.34 a kilogram retail weight in the September quarter, up 19c/kg on the previous quarter and $1.58/kg on the same time a year ago.
It’s a flow-through effect of a current shortage of cattle in Australia, as the herd rebuilds following big drought sell-offs.