Cell surface charge and hydrophobicity of Bacillus subtilis, Escherichia coli O157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella typhimurium, Serratia marcescens, Staphylococcus aureus, and Staphylococcus epidermidis were determined by hydrocarbon adherence, hydrophobic interaction, and electrostatic interaction chromatography. Surface charge and hydrophobicity were compared with the initial attachment values and rates of attachment of the bacteria to meat surfaces. There was a linear correlation between the relative negative charge on the bacterial cell surface and initial attachment to lean beef muscle (r2 = 0.885) and fat tissue (r2 = 0.777). Hydrophobicity correlated well with attachment to fat tissue only. The relative hydrophobicity of each bacterium was dependent on the specific method of determination, with wide variations noted between methods.