The objective of this study was to evaluate the differences in biochemical, sensorial and quality characteristics of retail beef in Belgium. Four types of beef (Belgian Blue double-muscled, Limousin, Irish and Argentine) and two different muscles (longissimus lumborum and semimembranosus) were bought at the retail level and compared with regard to colour, shear force, collagen content, fatty acid analysis, taste panel evaluation as well as flavour analysis. Belgian Blue and Limousin beef had a paler colour, lower collagen and intramuscular fat contents. Fatty acid profiles were significantly different between the four types, with significantly higher PUFA/SFA and n-6/n-3 ratios for Belgiam Blue and Limousin beef compared to Argentine and Irish beef. There were significant differences between the meat types for taste panel tenderness and shear force, however both measurements did not fully correspond. Flavour analysis by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry as well as sensory analysis demonstrated that Irish and Argentine beef had a higher flavour intensity related to higher contents of volatile compounds. Differences in tenderness and flavour between the meat types were probably affected by differences in ageing time, related to import vs local production of meat. (C) 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.