Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – The main driver of higher egg prices is the Avian Bird Flu. Through the end of last year, it had wiped out 44 million laying hens across the country.

The USDA says egg inventories were down about 29 percent through the end of December. With fewer eggs on the market, prices are up.

Today’s report on inflation shows that egg prices for the month of December were up nearly 60 percent over the prior year. They increased more than 11 percent over the prior month of November.

The average cost of a carton of eggs hits three dollars and 59 cents across the country. That’s more than the average price for a gallon of gas and in some regions, it’s higher.

$7.37 in California for a dozen of cage-free eggs and $4.59 for a dozen of eggs in New York.

“Every time you lose a million chickens, you’re losing about 15 to 16 thousand cases of eggs a week in production for every million birds that get affected.”

Now, as we look to see where egg prices are headed, experts say that depends on whether we have additional outbreaks of the bird flu.

The USDA does say that egg inventories are starting to improve, but in the short term, American consumers should expect to pay higher prices for a dozen of eggs at the local grocery store.