I have written an article about shechita and government regulation, which is today's feature on Jewish Ideas Daily. It represents part of my efforts to educate myself about the food choices that I make on behalf of myself and my family.
Not long ago, I posted about my grandfather's job as a shochet and the tension between his slaughterhouse and government inspectors. I've done a bit more digging (not a ton) and found that there was a concerted effort around that time to get rid of small, local slaughterhouses and consolidate into larger ones. Regulations were designed to favor consolidation, as only the largest plants could afford what the government required (but only the largest plants needed all the safeguards that regulations mandated). With the proliferation of regulations, the slaughterhouse had something like 6 full-time inspectors, causing my grandfather to quip, "I wish the boys in Vietnam would get the same level of medical care that my chickens get." This actually dovetails with what I learned from reading The Omnivore's Dilemma.
Of course, there is legislation that kosher slaughterhouses must implement, and legislation they are exempt from or actually oppose. To distinguish between actual slaughter practices and the handling of the animal before and after slaughter may fall short; for example, there was no opposition to the regulation that animals could not touch the ground after slaughter, and the shackle-and-hoist method was implemented relatively easily after 1906's Food and Drug Act. I haven't found a distinction that works.
In any event, enjoy the article, and "od chazon la-mo'ed."