The Real Reason Cheese Is The Most Stolen Food In The World

An astonishing 4 percent of the world's cheese ends up stolen, making it the world's most stolen food (via Time). If the global percentage holds true in the United States, then that makes 4 percent of roughly 12.7 billion pounds annually (via Agricultural Marketing Resource Center), or 508 million pounds of stolen cheese. How heavy is that, exactly? If the weight of an average car is roughly 4,000 pounds (via the Environmental Protection Agency), then cheese thieves steal the equivalent of 127,000 cars worth a year. Suffice to say, it's a lot. 

Your burning question, of course, is, "Why?" As it turns out, most cheese is stolen in large quantities for resale to other markets and restaurants (via HuffPost). Take the time in 2017 when Italian police undertook "Operation Wine and Cheese" and succeeded in capturing 10 masterminds behind the theft of 168 wheels (or $110,000 worth) of Parmesan (via Time). 

Simply put, cheese is expensive. And despite the myriad of health conditions associated with eating tons of cheese on the regular, the average per capita consumption of cheese in the United States up to about 40 pounds a year (via Statista). It's safe to say we can expect more cheese heists in the future.  

Some of the most impressive cheese heists in recent history

How exactly does a cheese heist go down? We've researched some of the most impressive in recent history to give you an idea. 

The easiest way may be to have an inside man. In October 2019, Dairy Herd reported that police had captured two men who stole $50,000 worth of cheese from Leprino Foods between 2017 and 2019. One of the thieves reportedly worked at the California plant, which happens to the world's largest manufacturer of mozzarella cheese. Police were eventually able to identify the cheese based on the serial numbers blocked on to it.  

Another way to steal cheese? Ask for it. In 2011, two women walked into an Oregon Whole Foods and requested a box full of cheese. While one went to the register, the other walked out the door (via HuffPost). What was in the box? $300 worth of Gouda and $270 worth of blue cheese. 

Finally, you can do it the old fashioned way by planning and executing a heist from the outside. In 2018 French thieves took off with 700 blocks (the equivalent of $11,000, or €10,000 worth) of Saint-Nectaire (via The Local). In 2019 a Canadian thief, posing as a delivery man, successfully stole $137,000 (or $187,000 Canadian dollars) worth of cheese from Saputo Dairy Products in Ontario (via CBC). As local constable, Ed Sanchuk noted, that's "quite a large amount of cheese to get rid of."