GOOD

There’s no shortage of labels assigned to urbanites who sit in coffee shops tapping away on MacBooks and iPads: hipsters, freelancers, and the underemployed are all among them. One label of a more sinister stripe, though, has become increasingly common: targets.

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Watch Your Mouth: Why Do We Shoplift Meat and Cheese? Meatlifting: The Economics of Shoplifting Meat and Cheese

Meat and cheese tops the charts of shoplifted items. Why do we purloin sirloin and cop Camembert?


This summer, a Pennsylvania man was caught stuffing a pork loin down his pants. Men have also recently slid sirloins into their shorts in South Carolina, Florida, and Australia. Two women rolled off with wheels of gouda from Whole Foods Market in June. An organized gang in Florida drove away with seven tractor-trailers worth of cucumbers, tomatoes, and frozen meat in March. A Texas sting, “Operation Meat Locker,” busted up a ring of modern cattle rustlers who had been shoplifting retail cuts of beef and selling them to local restaurants.

The five-finger discount isn't just showing up on the police beat—it's also reasserted itself more broadly in pop culture. In The New Yorker’s “Money Issue,” Miranda July writes that stealing requires a kind of Zen oneness akin to horse whispering or surfing (she ate through early adulthood by lifting soy products from the supermarket). Shoplifting from American Apparel is practically required reading for Generation Ambivalent. Wendy loses Lucy after unsuccessfully trying to steal dog food. Eater even has a column devoted to “Shit People Steal.”

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