Cattle futures plunged from a 27-month high this week on speculation that rising beef prices will slow meat demand and force processors to reduce animal purchases.

Wholesale Choice-beef prices rose yesterday to the highest since May 26, and steers for immediate delivery at slaughtering plants last week were 26% more expensive on average than a year earlier, government data show. Cattle futures have jumped 21% this year and beef prices gained 19%.

“We may have run out of buyers at the retail level, not just the futures level,” says Doug Harper, an analyst at Richard A. Brock & Associates in Milwaukee.

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