Abstract Lamb Longissimus dorsi muscles were excised from carcasses of 9–12 kg and 16–20 kg weight and brought to internal temperatures of either 0°C, 4°C, 10°C, 15°C, 20°C or 36°C within 3–4h post mortem. After rigor completion they were allowed to age at 4°C for 7 days. Sensory panel scores obtained on the first day of post-rigor aging showed that meat from heavier animals was tougher than that of lighter ones at any temperature. In all cases aging for 7 days had a marked tenderising effect which was similar at all studied temperatures, and greater in heavier animals. Tenderness was also dependent on the temperature at conditioning, as shortening caused by either high or low temperature resulted in meat toughening. The sole and surprising exception to this fact was, however, the high sensory scores obtained in 0°C experiments, even though shortening occurred as expected. In fact, a more intense proteolysis was evident in this case, which was already apparent on the first day of aging. The effect of a rapid drop of muscle temperature to 0°C on the fast and intense proteolysis, capable of even overcoming toughness due to cold shortening, was explained by the higher pH and the dramatic increase of the sarcoplasmic Ca ++ level induced early post mortem by chilling and which might result in the activation of calpain.