The objective of this study was to assess the association of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) developed at the calpastatin (CAST) and mu-calpain (CAPN1) genes with meat tenderness and palatability traits in populations with diverse genetic backgrounds. Three populations were used in the study. One population consisted of Bos taurus that included crossbred animals derived from Hereford, Angus, Red Angus, Limousin, Charolais, Gelbvieh, and Simmental (GPE7; n = 539). Another population consisted of Bos taurus with Bos indicus influence, including crossbred animals from Hereford, Angus, Brangus, Beefmaster, Bonsmara, and Romosinuano (GPE8; n = 580). The third population was Bos indicus and consisted of purebred Brahman (STARS; n = 444). Traits evaluated were meat tenderness measured as Warner-Bratzler shear force (WBSF; kg) at 14 d postmortem, and traits evaluated by trained sensory panels that included tenderness score, juiciness, and flavor intensity. A SNP at the CAST gene had a significant (P < 0.003) effect on WBSF and tenderness score in the GPE7 and GPE8 populations. Animals inheriting the TT genotype at CAST had meat that was more tender than those inheriting the CC genotype. The marker at the CAPN1 gene was significant (P < 0.03) for tenderness score in GPE7 and GPE8. Animals inheriting the CC genotype at CAPN1 had meat that was more tender than those inheriting the TT genotype. Markers at the CAST and CAPN1 genes were associated with flavor intensity in the GPE8 population. Animals inheriting the CC genotype at CAST and the TT genotype at CAPN1 produced steaks with an intense flavor when compared with the other genotypes. An interaction between CAST and CAPN1 was detected (P < 0.05) for WBSF on GPE8. The statistical significance of the interaction is questionable because of the limited number of observations in some cells. Markers developed at the CAST and CAPN1 genes are suitable for use in identifying animals with the genetic potential to produce meat that is more tender.