A large number of putative single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) have been identified from the bovine genome-sequencing project. However, few of these have been validated and many will turn out to be sequencing artefacts or have low minor allele frequencies. In addition, there is little information available on SNPs within coding regions, which are likely to be responsible for phenotypic variation. Therefore, additional SNP discovery is necessary to identify and validate polymorphisms both in specific genes and genome-wide. Sequence-tagged sites within 286 genes were resequenced from a panel of animals representing a wide range of European cattle breeds. For 80 genes, no polymorphisms were identified, and 672 putative SNPs were identified within 206 genes. Fifteen European cattle breeds (436 individuals plus available parents) were genotyped with these putative SNPs, and 389 SNPs were confirmed to have minor allele frequencies above 10%. The genes containing SNPs were localized on chromosomes by radiation hybrid mapping and on the bovine genome sequence by Blast. Flanking microsatellite loci were identified, to facilitate the alignment of the genes containing the SNPs in relation to mapped quantitative trait loci. Of the 672 putative SNPs discovered in this work, only 11 were found among the validated SNPs and 100 were found among the approximately 2.3 million putative SNPs currently in dbSNP. The genes studied in this work could be considered as candidates for traits associated with beef production and the SNPs reported will help to assess the role of the genes in the genetic control of muscle development and meat quality. The allele frequency data presented allows the general utility of the SNPs to be assessed.