The effects of short (three hours) and extended (24 hours) feed withdrawal periods and three cattle breeds on muscle energy metabolism, sarcomere length, and meat quality were investigated. Brahman (Br), Nguni (Ng), and Simmental (Sm) bulls were subjected to ante-mortem feed withdrawal of three hours (Br3, n = 10; Ng3, n = 10; and Sm3, n = 10) or 24 hours (Br24, n = 10; Ng24, n = 10; and Sm24, n = 10). M. longissimus was used as the reference muscle for sampling. pH, and temperature was recorded at 1, 2, 3, 6, 9, and 24 hours post mortem. Samples for energy metabolites were removed at 3, 6, 9 and 24 hours post mortem. Glycogen, glucose-6-phosphate and creatine phosphate concentration were determined at each time interval as glycosyl units after hydrolysis. Samples to determine sarcomere length were removed at one and three days post mortem. Homogenates of the samples were placed under a 31,000 magnification microscope and sarcomere lengths were measured. Warner-Bratzler shear force (WBSF) was measured with an Instron meter at 1, 7 and 14 days post mortem. Glycogen was lower for Br24 and Ng24. There were no differences in glucose-6-phosphate, rate of creatine phosphate decline, average sarcomere length, or WBSF for Br24 and Ng24 compared with Br3 and Ng3. There were no differences for WBSF between Br3, Ng3 and Sm3. Glycogen concentration was higher for Sm24 compared with Sm3; glucose-6-phosphate was lower for Sm24 compared with Sm3; and the rate of creatine phosphate decline was higher for Sm24 compared with Sm3. Average sarcomere length was shorter and WBSF was higher for Sm24 compared with Sm3. The effect of prolonged ante-mortem feed withdrawal on tenderness is breed specific. Warner-Bratzler shear force was affected significantly by an extended feed withdrawal period in Simmental cattle only.