When we buy organic eggs we like to think that we are getting them from one of those chickens that had a life roaming the farm picking earthworms out of the ground and so on.
I am just going to list some facts about egg farming in Switzerland so you may make the right egg-buying decision that you feel comfortable with. (Hint: You will be so shocked, you will not be able to feel good about yourself eating just about any egg)
1. 2.7 million make chicks end up getting shredded right at birth.
Male chickens do not lay eggs, obviously. But they don't produce a lot of meat as well. Egg laying chicken breeds have been genetically optimised to put all their energy into producing eggs and stay pretty skinny. So to raise a male chick of an egg-laying breed, you would need about 3 times as much time and food to get it to be as big as a normal meat-optimised chicken. We all know time is money. But it also doesn't make sense ecologically to waste 3 times the amount of food on a chicken. So they are essentially worthless and thus get shredded at birth.
2. 2.7 Million egg-laying chickens get gassed and burned every year
After a chicken lays eggs for one year, it needs to take a rest for 5 weeks to recover until it can lay eggs again for a whole year. In that time it makes itself a whole new coat of feathers. In their 2nd year of laying eggs, they are only 95% as efficient laying eggs as in their first year. Put those two factors together, and it is not economically viable to keep egg-laying chickens for more than one year.
Since they also don't produce much meat at all, it also doesn't make economical sense to do all the work of plucking and eviscerating the chicken, cutting the little meat off the bones and packaging it to sell. The process is more expensive than the end-product. So while every farmer I have talked to hates doing it, the standard practice is to lock the 3000-5000 chickens into the chicken coop, seal off the building and gas them to death. The carcasses then get burned in a burning chamber.
3. Organic egg-laying chickens are being fed on Chinese soybeans
We have genetically optimised chickens to lay an egg per day. That is a huge feat for such a small creature. A chicken lays more than its bodyweight in eggs every 3 weeks! But for the chicken this means its biology dictates it to lay an egg a day. It must eat enough of exactly the right food to "assemble" that egg. If it doesn't get the right food, it will go crazy and the chickens start picking each other and eating each other and so on. The problem is that the chicken needs a very high protein diet (23%) with just the right amino-acid composition to accomplish this.
Back in the day, we used to feed chickens enough slaughterhouse waste (very protein rich) together with grain. Since the BSE crisis (which had nothing to do with chickens, but rather feeding bone and meat meal to cows) it is forbidden. So today we feed chickens purely on a vegan diet, even though that is not in their nature. The problem is that the only crop that has a high enough protein content with the right amino acids (the limiting factor being the amino acid Methionine) is soy beans. But since soy doesn't grow well in Switzerland and we have a chronic shortage of organic soy in Europe, Switzerland imports its organic chicken-feed soy from China. And China has a soy shortage themselves, so they import soy from Brazil.
Conventional chickens are being fed on synthetically produced Methonine, so they can eat local grains.
So simply put: there are basically no eggs from happy chickens and there are basically no ecologically sustainable eggs.
I can offer you a glimmer of a light in this grim analysis: There is one farmer, Kurt Brunner from the Hof Looren in Kanton Zug who has been breeding dual purpose chickens for 15 years now. His chickens lay both eggs and produce meat and he raises both the male and female chicken. And he feeds his chickens on waste products from cheese production (whey) and on local grains.
Of course the chickens are not as "efficient" as hybrid chickens, but they still lay about 5 eggs per week (instead of 7).
So he offers a one year deal where you get all the eggs of one chicken (about 250) and the meat from the chicken and her male counterpart (the chick that would otherwise get shredded) as well. The one-year plan costs CHF 300.
If you are up for it, you can contact him directly or write to me and I will take care of it for you.