Concern that the nation's beef supply may be crowding the meat counters sent cattle futures prices into a steep decline Friday.
Prices for some deliveries approached the 1 1/2-cent limit loss allowed for daily trading on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
"Consistently heavy slaughter rates are taking their toll," said Chuck Levitt, an analyst in Chicago with Shearsn Lehman Bros.
The kill for the week was 6% above a year ago and for May it will be about 3% higher, he noted.
Most of the expanded slaughter is traceable to the government's whole-herd dairy buyout program.
An ominous note, Levitt said, is that in addition to the large kills of dairy cows, "we're starting to see some slaughtering of beef cows. What we're looking at is some liquidation of beef herds."
Pork futures were mixed, supported by a reduced slaughter rate, but pressured by relatively high prices for pork products such as hams and loins.
Petroleum futures skidded again with heating oil touching the 2-cent-a-gallon limit decline on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The June delivery settled 2.17 cents lower.