The Chicago Tribune did a series of articles earlier this year on the pork industry in Illinois. It's a pretty bleak, unsavory picture. Here's an excerpt from the first article.
The state Department of Agriculture, which is charged with promoting livestock production as well as regulating it, often brushed aside opposition from local officials to issue about 900 swine confinement permits in the last 20 years. Long-standing community residents were left feeling their rights had been trampled and the laws stacked against them.
In a wide-ranging investigation that spanned dozens of Illinois counties and analyzed more than 20,000 pages of government documents, the Tribune also found that the growth of these confinements has created a persistent new environmental hazard.
Pig waste flowing into rural waterways from leaks and spills destroyed more than 490,000 fish in 67 miles of rivers over a 10-year span. No other industry came close to causing that amount of damage, the Tribune found. Many operators faced only minor consequences; some multimillion-dollar confinements paid small penalties while polluting repeatedly.
The state also does little to investigate allegations of animal cruelty submitted by whistleblowing employees who work for some of Illinois' most prominent pork producers. Inspectors dismissed one complaint, state files show, after simply telephoning executives to ask if it was true that their workers were beating pigs with metal bars.
. . .
Twenty years after the state law was put in place, critics liken its provisions to a frontier-era timber blockade in the path of a bullet train.
There's more at the link, and in the other articles in the series. It's worth reading them in full to see how a state bureaucracy can actively cooperate with big business against the interests of residents, and animals, and the environment.
After reading them, I want to know more about how other states - particularly my own, newly adopted state of Texas - are doing about the problem. This has ramifications far beyond paying the cheapest possible price for the pork I eat. That may well be kept artificially low by causing costs in other areas - monetary or otherwise - that are unacceptably high.