NPR logo British Thieves Go After Sheep

British Thieves Go After Sheep

Sheep in north-east England.
Andrew Yates/AFP/Getty Images

British farmers are being forced to keep a closer eye on their sheep, the Washington Post reports.

A booming black market for lamb has reportedly popped up due to increasing food prices:

Because of escalating world demand and scaled-back production in such nations as New Zealand, a farmer's price per pound for lamb here is now about 35 percent higher than in 2008.

"There is no doubt that this is directly related to food prices," said Tim Price, spokesman for the National Farmers Union Mutual, Britain's largest agricultural insurer. "The prices went up, and so did the thefts."

National Farmers Mutual says the number of reported sheep thefts in Britain this year is double what it was last year.

So could a similar crisis hit the U.S.? Probably not, Judy Malone, director of industry information at the American Sheep Industry Association, tells the Post.

"We have been watching what's happening in Britain in amazement, and wondering, frankly, why it isn't happening yet in the United States since lamb prices are at record highs. But I think it has a lot to do with the fact that lamb is so much more popular in Britain than it is in the United States."