USDA says bird flu outbreak will drive egg prices to record highs
Safeway brand Lucerne eggs are seen at the store in Wheaton, Maryland on Feb. 13, 2015. Photo by Gary Cameron for Reuters.

The average price of a dozen eggs in the United States will climb to a record high this year due to the nation's worst-ever outbreak of bird flu in poultry, U.S. Department of Agriculture data issued on Wednesday show.

The USDA, in a monthly supply and demand report, increased its forecast for the price of Grade A large eggs in New York in 2015 to $1.60 to $1.66 per dozen. That is up from its May estimate of $1.30 to $1.36, and tops last year's average price of about $1.42, which was a record high, according to USDA data.

In the fourth quarter of 2015, eggs will average $1.73 to $1.87 per dozen, up from about $1.63 a year earlier, the USDA said. Last month, the agency predicted a dozen eggs would cost $1.33 to $1.45 in the fourth quarter.

Nationwide, more than 47 million chickens and turkeys have been killed in the past six months because of bird flu or are set to be culled to prevent the spread of the disease. Most are hens in Iowa, the top U.S. egg-producing state.

The impact of the outbreak will stretch into next year, the USDA said. The agency raised its estimate for the average egg price in 2016 to $1.36 to $1.47 per dozen from its May estimate of $1.28 to $1.39.

(Reporting by Tom Polansek; Editing by Peter Galloway)