Do a quick scan for "cow gallstones" on the Alibaba website and you'll see that they're quite in demand, whether you want to buy them by the gram, kilogram, or ton. So a 38-year-old Australian man accused of stealing a whole bunch of them must have thought he hit the jackpot at the Oakey slaughterhouse in the Australian town of Toowoomba in Queensland, allegedly sneaking out the tiny stones over a six-month period, the Guardian reports. So why are they so valuable? They're often used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) treatments—their supposed claim to fame is that they can treat hepatitis, heart diseases, and other various ailments, the Brisbane Times notes—and they're said to be worth up to $20,000 a kilo.
The local stock-and-rural crime unit found the gallstone hoard after raiding a suburban property and checking in … the refrigerator. "There was a good chance they were going to be in the fridge," a detective who helped with the investigation says, per the Guardian. "If they weren't in the fridge, we would have been looking all day." A TCM expert at Queensland's Griffith University says that even though Australia is home to plenty of TCM practitioners, she suspects the stones would have been shipped off to Asia. Toowoomba's senior constable points out, however, that even though the stones were of "considerable value," the thief never would have gotten top dollar. "It was less than half a kilo, of varying quality," he says, per the Brisbane Times. "It was nowhere near the $20,000 mark."