This study was conducted to evaluate the effect of mulberry leaves as an alternative source of protein on growth performance, carcass traits and meat quality in finishing pigs. A total of 180 Xiangcun Black pigs were randomly assigned to five treatment groups with six pens of six pigs per pen. The pigs were provided with a basal diet or a diet contained 3%, 6%, 9% or 12% of mulberry leaf powder during a 50-day experiment period. The results showed that dietary mulberry leaf powder had no negative effect on growth performance in Xiangcun Black pigs, except in the 12% mulberry group, where final body weight and average daily gain decreased (p < .05) and feed to gain ratio of the pigs increased (p < .05). Dietary mulberry inclusion decreased (quadratic, p < .05) the back fat thickness, fibre mean cross-sectional area (CSA) in the longissimus dorsi (LD) muscle and mRNA expression levels of myosin heavy chain (MyHC) IIb in LD and biceps femoris (BF) muscles, while increased (linear or quadratic, p < .05) the plasma concentration of albumin, levels of crude protein (CP), inosine monophosphate (IMP) and several amino acids in muscle tissues. When compared with the other groups, the 9% mulberry diet increased (p < .05) loin-eye area and contents of CP and IMP in muscles, while decreased (p < .05) plasma activity of cholinesterase and concentrations of uric acid and urea. The 6% mulberry diet had the lowest fibre mean CSA and shear force and increased total fibre number of the LD muscle, when compared with the other groups. These results suggest that including mulberry in the diet at <12% is an effective feed crop to improve meat quality and the chemical composition of muscle without negatively affecting growth performance. © 2019 Blackwell Verlag GmbH.