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a black and white cow staring straight ahead

Laura Domigan is a chronicler of cows. Every biographical detail and pharmacological footnote could be crucial, so the biochemist has a long list of questions for the farmers she works with. Where was the cow raised? What did it eat? What did it look like? Which medicines did it take and why? How old was the cow when it was slaughtered?

Domigan knows enough to write a family history about these cows, but she’s more interested in what they leave behind when they die. Shortly after a cow has been slaughtered, one of her colleagues arrives at the abattoir with a Petri dish in hand and removes a tiny slither of muscle tissue from the carcass, bathing it in a salt solution to stop the cells within from bursting open or shrivelling up. The precious nugget is then packed in ice and ferried back to Domigan’s laboratory at the University of Auckland in New Zealand.

This is where the bovine biographies come in handy. Domigan’s job is to work out how to turn that collection of cells into hunks of... see more