Holiday dinners could be put on hold after of a large number of Christmas hams, salamis and steaks were stolen from a Nelson butcher, police say.

The break in at the store at the Whakatu Estate was reported to police today, but could have happened any time since Friday evening.

Sergeant Craig Barker said the thieves had taken a substantial amount of meat that was likely to be intended for commercial purposes.

The offenders would have required a large van or small truck to remove the goods, he said.

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Taken in the burglary were about 30 large Christmas hams, several hundred salamis and a large quantity of steak. Some of the salamis had distinctive Christmas themed wrappers.

The theft was a harsh blow for the business owner who had suffered a run of bad luck, Mr Barker said.

The business moved to Nelson from Christchurch after being hit twice by earthquakes in the city. Shortly after moving to Nelson the premises was flooded and more recently it was damaged by fire after a neighbouring building caught alight.

"I'm hoping that someone with a conscience will be offered a cheap ham or salami and put two and two together. This really is a low blow," he said.

Police would like to speak to anyone who had been offered meat or small goods for sale and anyone who had information that might help in identifying the offenders.

Anyone with information could call Nelson police on 03 546 3840, or anonymously to Crimestoppers, on 0800 555 111.