Back in the previous millennium when I was but a youngster, a semi-tractor-trailer rig overturned on a twisty country road close to my hometown. The truck was carrying thousands of pounds of frozen chickens, and the rock-solid carcasses spilled all over hill-and-dale. The locals descended on the site of the wreck, and before the company could show up to protect its property, those birds had been plucked up and spirited off to home freezers all over the county. I don't think the chicken snatchers thought of it as stealing - just damned good luck!
Audie Cornish on National Public Radio ran an investigative piece yesterday called "The Nut Job" which also focused on the theft of food, but this time it was well planned in advance - and those profiting by the crime likely were not just a bunch of hungry hillbillies.
The story chronicled the major theft this week of three trailer loads of hulled and dried walnuts (140,000 pounds) from California's agriculturally rich Central Valley. The thieves, likely connected to organized crime, cut holes in a fence, drove their semi-tractors through the fence, hooked up to the loaded trailers, and drove off. A snatch-and-grab on an industrial scale.
The heisting of walnuts and almonds from the Central Valley has been going on for several years. One recent version of the crime involved a driver showing up with the correct order number, hooking up to the cargo trailer, and then driving off - never to reach his destination or to be heard from again.
And it's not just nuts. Raisins have also been targeted, and recent news reports describe the wholesale theft of chicken wings and hamburger patties. A truckload of Nutella was recently stolen in Germany.
As these food bandits get more brazen, law enforcement will undoubtedly ramp up its efforts to thwart the thieves. The takeaway lesson from all of this might be to use caution when biting into your peanut butter because you might just chomp down on a tracking device!