The authorities are looking at more cases of illegal meat sales than ever before, ranging from illegal slaughtering to door-to-door salesmen offering boxes of meat to households.
As a result, the amount of illegal lamb in the food chain has soared by as much as 250 per cent this year. Rural insurer NFU Mutual had received claims for more than 60,000 stolen sheep by the end of October – two-and-a-half times more than last year, it says. Cattle, pig and game rustling have also gone up over the period.
Total losses reported by the industry doubled to more than £5 million, and that is only counting farmers with insurance. The rise in livestock theft comes as meat prices soar across the board, but none has increased more than lamb – around 60 per cent in the last three years.
Anthony Sturge, who runs a catering business and farmers’ market stall from his Brighton base, said he had been approached three times by a man who offered to sell him a whole lamb for £55, well below the market rate.
“I personally haven’t taken any, because I need full traceability for my products, but I can see that if someone knocked on your door, you’re not going to ask questions,” he said.