The objective of this study was to determine the variation of the colour of longissimus thoracis muscle within and among fifteen European cattle breeds reared under comparable management conditions. A total of 436 unrelated purebred young bulls from fifteen European breeds (Aberdeen Angus, Highland,
Jersey, South Devon, Danish Red, Holstein, Simmental, Asturiana de las Monta~nas (also known as Casina), Asturiana de los Valles, Avileña-Negra Iberica, Pirenaica, Marchigiana, Piemontese, Charolais and Limousin) were reared in five experimental research centres in the United Kingdom, Denmark, Spain, Italy and France. The pH of M. longissimus thoracis was measured at 24 h and after 10 days of ageing and colour at 48 h and 10 days. Two generalised linear models, Pearson correlations and a hierarchical cluster analyses were carried out. Lean meat colour differed significantly between breeds, and these fifteen European breeds could be grouped according to four classes of commercial interest: ‘very bright and pale-red’, ‘bright and pale’, ‘red’ and ‘dark and dull red’. These groups were partially related to body size and carcass traits, fatness and muscle development and structure, and were controlled by differences in gene expression within each breed.