SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Too much of a good thing isn’t good for anyone. That goes for protein, too. After years of people stuffing themselves with chicken, pork and beef while they were following low-carb diets such as Atkins, the meat industry is looking at a glut as the diet trend turns toward a more balanced approach. Benchmark wholesale prices for beef and pork are down more than 8 percent from a year ago and 20 percent for chicken, according to the Livestock Marketing Information Center. “There is just an overabundance of protein on the market,” the center’s Jim Robb said. Retail prices for meats are forecast to be flat to 1 percent lower this year compared with a 2 percent to 3 percent increase for all foods, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. DeWayne Gray, a rancher who has 1,450 head of cattle southwest of Springfield, said he has been expecting prices to come down as the normal business cycle holds sway. “We reached the apex of the cattle cycle around the first of the year,” Gray said. Big food processors are feeling the effect of what the industry calls an “oversupply of protein.” The nation’s largest meat processor, Springdale, Ark.-based Tyson Foods Inc., blamed a second-quarter loss in part on the protein glut. No. 2 processor Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., based in Pittsburg, Texas, also posted a loss for similar reasons.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBasketball roundup: Sierra Canyon, Birmingham set to face off in tournament quarterfinalsAgricultural economists said the oversupply and subsequent dip in prices is part of the normal business cycle. Good profits in 2004 and 2005 tempted farmers and agribusiness companies to raise production faster than the growth in demand. But changing diets have helped pressure the market, as have export problems for beef and chicken. Consumers are increasingly shunning high-protein diets such as Atkins and South Beach, which have been lauded for inducing rapid weight loss but criticized for raising the intake of fats and cholesterol. “The popularity of high-protein, low-carb diets gave an extra kick to demand for meats,” said Ronald Plain, professor of agricultural economics at the University of Missouri in Columbia. “Now we’re in a situation in 2006 where we see an increase in meat production and that (diet) popularity is going away, so the Atkins diet turned out to be like other diets, a passing fad,” Plain said.