According to a special report from FreightWatch, the price of beef, pork and chicken (meats) in the United States has increased substantially since the second quarter of 2010, driving up thefts of meat products in FreightWatch's Food/Drinks category.

Thieves' desire for any given product increases with the market price of the product itself. Higher value goods mean more dollars in the criminals' pockets when they go to sell the stolen goods on the black market or to unscrupulous wholesalers or retailers.

Meat thefts saw a significant spike in 2011, increasing from an average of 1.75 thefts per month in 2010 to four thefts per month in 2011, a year when drought conditions drove up the price of corn. So far this year, thefts of meats are averaging about 3.2 per month, with the busiest months for cargo thieves still ahead.

The FreightWatch report analyzes the correlation between feed prices, driven by environmental factors, and the rising cost of meat, which has led to the increased criminal desire for and theft of meats.

Meat thefts spiked from 1.75 thefts per month in 2010 to four thefts per month in 2011, an increase of more than 128%. Corn prices also shot up from $158.10 per ton in the second quarter of 2010 (Q2-10) to $312.54 per ton in Q2- 11, an increase of almost 98%. Of course, as corn prices nearly doubled, the price of beef, pork and chicken also increased significantly.

As with most other product types, the highest number of theft incidents targeting meats typically are seen in the final quarter of the year. Thus, meat thefts will likely meet or exceed record amounts by the end of 2012.

Thefts of meats happen most frequently in areas already known for large volumes of cargo theft in general (Southern California, South Florida, and the Houston and Atlanta areas). One exception to the rule is the Corn Belt (Iowa in particular), which has seen a disproportionate amount of meat thefts compared with other products.

Drought conditions in the U.S. are at their worst since 1956, and corn prices will likely continue to rise. As such, the price of domestic meat will likely continue on the same trajectory.