Durham Constabulary’s Road Policing Unit discovered a dozen boxes of the meat when they stopped the Ford Transit in Billingham on Wednesday night.
It had been stolen while being unloaded in Frederick Street in South Shields at around 5.45pm.
A force spokesperson said: “Northumbria Police alerted us to the theft and shortly afterwards Durham C Relief officers spotted the vehicle on the A19 in convoy with a Ford Fiesta.
“The van was intercepted after being stung on the A19 near Billingham and the Fiesta was also stopped.
"Three men were arrested at the scene on suspicion a series of offences including theft of a motor vehicle and drink driving.
"An investigation is ongoing.
"The van was recovered and we’re happy to say returned – along with its precious cargo – to its owner.”