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CAB Reviews

A reviews journal covering agriculture, global health, nutrition, natural resources and veterinary science

CAB Review

Microbiomes in ruminant protein production and food security.


The global population is rapidly increasing and will surpass 10 billion people within the next 20 years. As diminishing resources continue to impact agriculture, and with the necessity to feed the world by 2050, the agricultural sector must be able to sustainably and efficiently produce high-quality sources of food that are both attainable to the global population and contribute to healthy, balanced nutrition. Ruminants are a unique contributor towards a sustainable and food secure world, as they are available and utilized across all economic and social demographics, and can produce high-quality protein from otherwise inedible plants from land that is typically unsuitable for crop production or cultivation. Thus, developing tools, methodologies, and systems for optimizing the production of protein from ruminants stands to make great impacts on food security. Breeding and genetics have played a role in this development, but cannot be a singular solution. Microbes are present at abundances that equal or exceed host cell counts, are ubiquitous throughout all mammalian systems and are required for regular host-physiological functions. Optimizing these host-microbe-symbioses in ruminants permits the opportunity to augment the utility and efficiency of microbiomes and their functions to produce production-specific phenotypes and outputs. This review, therefore, examines the role of microbiomes in ruminants to efficiently and sustainably produce high-quality protein for human consumption to aid in efforts to achieve global food security.