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Future Of Food Could Include 'Meat' & 'Seafood' Made From Bugs

BOSTON (CBS) - You probably don't think of pastries as being high-tech, but at Jonquils Café on Newbury Street, that is just what you'll get. Delicate cakes and mousse, formed into futuristic-looking shapes using a 3D printer, are flavored with apples, chocolate and lime. The coffee-flavored pastry even looks like a giant coffee bean. The tea is like performance art, morphing in the hot liquid to beautiful flower-like shape.

The international designers behind these culinary creations want to change dessert into an experience and their café into a destination.

Pastries at Jonquils Cafe on Newbury Street in Boston. (WBZ-TV)

But Natalie Rubio is looking for a different kind of change in the food of the future. She's trying to make meat or seafood substitutes out of insects. "There's definitely an ick-factor," she conceded.

The Tufts doctoral candidate is working on growing stem cells from the tobacco hornworm caterpillar into tissue that could someday be manufactured into something that might resemble lobster. "This species is muscly and fatty," she said, showing WBZ the chunky worm with a powder blue skin that will make anyone with an insect aversion instantly squeamish.

There is already work being done to manufacture meat from cells of cows and other mammals, but Rubio believes insects could work better. "Insect cells have a few innate properties that make them easier and more cost-effective to grow compared to mammalian cells," she explained.

Natalie Rubio, a doctoral student at Tufts University, is trying to make meat substitutes from insects. (WBZ-TV)

Natalie's motivation comes from her concern about the treatment of animals and for the environment. Cattle farms, for example, have a sizeable carbon footprint because cows produce methane, a greenhouse gas that, according to the EPA, is 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in trapping heat in the atmosphere. Government statistics show that it also requires 150 gallons to water to produce one pound of ground beef.

You might think that choosing shrimp would be a better option, but that's not necessarily the case. "The supply chain for shrimp has terrible environmental impacts," explained Taunton native Mary McGovern, who is working on a plant-based product that looks and tastes like shrimp.

McGovern's company, New Wave Foods, has been taste-testing its product and is close to bringing it to market. What's in it is a bit of a trade secret. "We can tell you there's seaweed in it, and we can tell you that all of our ingredients are sustainable," McGovern said.

New Wave Foods is testing plant-based shrimp. (WBZ-TV)

In addition to cutting down on the pollution created by shrimp farms, the plant-based shrimp product is lower in calories and has no cholesterol. "And there's no allergens," McGovern said. "So anyone with a shellfish allergy, or anybody who wants to adhere to a kosher diet, this is a great option," she said.

When it comes to the dinner plate of the future, Rubio believes the possibilities are endless. "We can start to think outside the box when it comes to culinary science that we never would have thought to eat before," she said.

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