Thieves Steal Over $22,000 in Cheese Wheels from a Dutch Dairy Farm

Authorities say it looks like a "well-organized crime."

A Dutch dairy farmer walked into his shed to milk his cows one morning last week, and was shocked to see that thieves had broken in overnight and helped themselves to over 60 cheeses. The oversized cheese wheels weighed 10 kilograms (22 pounds) each, so the farming couple from the town of Fijnaart say that they must've been hurriedly hauled away in a wheelbarrow. But they're less concerned about the "how" than they are about the "why" they were targeted — especially since they're now down ​​€21,000 ($22,920) worth of inventory.

"They must have been watching us for a while. Our gate is always closed except on the day when the milkman comes by. They must have known that," one of the cheese farmers, identified only as Gerda, told Netherlands public broadcaster Omroep Brabant. "They also passed by our house. I can kick myself for not noticing anything. You just don't feel safe and that is a very bad feeling. It will really take a while before I regain trust in people."

Gerda said that the farm now has a significantly smaller selection of cheeses in stock. The thieves only left the most mature cheeses — probably because they were on higher shelves than the younger ones. "I was completely stunned because who would do such a thing?" she sighed. "You work really hard for it and then everything is destroyed in one night."

Theo Dekker, the chairman of dairy farmers' organization Bond van Boerderij-Zuiverlbereiders doesn't think that the theft was the work of amateurs. "This is not just about cheese thieves. This is well-organized crime," he told Omroep Brabant. "We are a bit afraid of this. They don't shy away from entering a cheese farm with brute force. In no time they fill their bus and leave."

Dekker also suggested that the cheeses would not be re-sold in the Netherlands, due to the registration code that all Dutch cheeses are required to have. "The number is pressed into the rind and cannot be removed without damaging the cheese," he said. "As a result, the thieves cannot sell the entire cheese in the Netherlands. But yes, if you cut off a piece, you can no longer see where the cheese comes from." (Last year, these registration numbers allowed the Bond van Boerderij-Zuiverlbereiders to identify some cheeses being sold online as the ones that had been stolen from another dairy farm.)

Due to this theft, and others that have taken place throughout the country, Dekker is encouraging dairy farmers to beef up their security, and to look out for anyone who seems to be eyeing their property. "It is of course never pleasant to have burglars in your yard," he said. "We know all too well how much craft is involved in the cheeses."

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