The objective of this study was to examine the online use of near infrared reflectance (NIR) spectroscopy to estimate the concentration of individual and groups of fatty acids (FA) as well as intramuscular fat (IMF) in crossbred Aberdeen Angus (AA×) and Limousin (LIM×) cattle. This was achieved by direct application of a fibre-optic probe to the muscle immediately after exposing the meat surface in the abattoir at 48 h post mortem. Samples of M. longissimus thoracis from 88 AA× and 106 LIM× were scanned over the NIR spectral range from 350 to 1800 nm and samples of the M. longissimus lumborum were analysed for IMF content and FA composition. Statistically significant differences (P < 0.001) were observed in most FA between the two breeds studied, with FA concentration being higher in AA× meat mainly. NIR calibrations, tested by cross-validation, showed moderate to high predictability in LIM× meat samples for C16:0, C16:1, C18:0, trans11 C18:1, C18:1, C18:2 n-6, C20:1, cis9, trans11 C18:2, SFA (saturated FA), MUFA (monounsaturated FA), PUFA (polyunsaturated FA) and IMF content with R2 (SECV, mg/100 g muscle) of 0.69 (146), 0.69 (28), 0.71 (62), 0.70 (8.1), 0.76 (192), 0.65 (13), 0.71 (0.9), 0.71 (2.9), 0.68 (235), 0.75 (240), 0.64 (17) and 0.75 (477), respectively. FA such as C14:0, C18:3 n-3, C20:4 n-6, C20:5 n-3, C22:6 n-3, n-6 and n-3 were more difficult to predict by NIR in these LIM× samples (R2 = 0.12 to 0.62; SECV = 0.5 to 26 mg/100 g muscle). In contrast, NIR showed low predictability for FA in AA× beef samples. In particular for LIM×, the correlations of NIR measurements and several FA in the range from 0.81 to 0.87 indicated that the NIR spectroscopy is a useful online technique for the early, fast and relatively inexpensive estimation of FA composition in the abattoir.