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A 2-yr experiment was conducted to compare carcass characteristics and meat palatability attributes of steers (³⁄₄ British, ¹⁄₄ Continental) finished postweaning as calves or yearlings. Calves and yearlings of the same contemporary group were designated to a finishing system at weaning. Calves (n = 73) were finished in the feedlot (191 d) on a high-concentrate diet. Yearlings (n = 84) grazed crop residues after weaning, followed by spring and summer pasture grazing, and concluded with a short finishing period (91 d) in the feedlot. All steers were fed to a constant, fat thickness endpoint of 1 cm. The M. longissimus lumborum steaks from each production system were aged for 7, 14, or 21 d for Warner-Bratzler shear force determination and for 7 or 14 d for in-house sensory panel evaluation. Insoluble, percent soluble, and total collagen were determined. Yearlings produced heavier (P < 0.001) carcasses with larger (P < 0.001) LM areas and lower (P < 0.001) marbling scores and quality grades. Calves possessed greater amounts of total collagen (P < 0.001), with a significantly greater percentage of soluble collagen compared with yearlings (39.72 vs. 24.38%). Calves produced steaks with lower (P < 0.001) shear force values and greater (P < 0.001) sensory ratings for flavor. The USDA Choice steaks from the calves were more (P < 0.001) tender and more (P < 0.050) palatable than Choice steaks from yearlings, and USDA Select steaks from calves were rated more tender (P < 0.001), juicy (P = 0.012), and desirable (P < 0.001) than Select steaks from yearlings. As expected, increasing aging time from 7- to 14- to 21-d produced steaks with lower (P < 0.001) shear force values, regardless of the production system. Risk probabilities showed 1.24% of the steaks from calf finished steers and 21.22% of steaks from yearling-finished steers to be tough. Sensory rating probabilities showed the steaks from the calves were most likely to be desirable for tenderness, whereas steaks from the yearlings were most likely to be undesirable for tenderness, juiciness, flavor, and overall acceptability. Thus, calf-finished steers produce carcasses superior in quality and palatability compared with those from yearling finished steers. However, yearling-finished steers can produce tender beef with extended aging.