People already love hot dogs, sausages and other processed meats made from stray protein of indeterminate origin, Matheny says. And many consumers prefer not to consider the origin of their meat. Many would be quite happy to learn their chicken grew on a styrofoam tray, wrapped in cellophane.

“Consumers don't really have a sense of how meat is produced,” Matheny says. “They see the end product, which often bears no resemblance to the animal. What they care about is how the product tastes and whether it's affordable. When people ask me if consumers will accept this kind of meat, I think, ‘yes, look at what they already accept.’”

If in vitro meat production ever becomes reality, Matheny says it will offer economic incentives to most everyone in the meat-production chain, except those currently growing animals.

“But the adoption of this technology would be so gradual, it would be just a continuation of the current trend in ag,” Matheny says. “In the early part of this century, a quarter of all Americans were employed on farms. Today, it's around 1%.

“It's not like the other 24% are unemployed; their kids just did something else. In this case, perhaps the future farmers of America are microbiologists rather than cattle ranchers,” he says.

Lorne McClinton is a freelance writer based in Yellow Grass, Saskatchewan, Canada.