Validation of economic indexes under a controlled experimental environment, can aid in their acceptance and use as breeding tools to increase herd profitability. The objective of this study was to compare intake, growth and carcass traits in bull and steer progeny of high and low ranking sires, for genetic merit in an economic index. The Beef Carcass Index (BCI; expressed in euro (€) and based on weaning weight, feed intake, carcass weight, carcass conformation and fat scores) was generated by the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation as a tool to compare animals on genetic merit for the expected profitability of their progeny at slaughter. A total of 107 male suckler herd progeny, from 22 late-maturing 'continental' beef sires of high (n = 11) or low (n = 11) BCI were compared under either a bull or steer production system, and slaughtered at approximately 16 and 24 months of age, respectively. All progeny were purchased after weaning at approximately 6 to 8 months of age. Dry matter (DM) intake and live-weight gain in steer progeny offered grazed grass or grass silage alone, did not differ between the two genetic groups. Similarly, DM intake and feed efficiency did not differ between genetic groups during an ad libitum concentrate-finishing period on either production system. Carcasses of progeny of high BCI sires were 14 kg heavier (P < 0.05) than those of low BCI sires. In a series of regression analyses, increasing sire BCI resulted in increases in carcass weight (P < 0.01) and carcass conformation (P = 0.051) scores, and decreases in carcass fat (P < 0.001) scores, but had no effect on weaning weight or DM intake of the progeny. Each unit increase in sire expected progeny difference led to an increase in progeny weaning weight, DM intake, carcass weight, carcass conformation score and carcass fat score of 1.0 (s.e. = 0.53) kg, 1.1 (s.e. = 0.32) kg, 1.3 (s.e. = 0.31) kg, 0.9 (s.e. = 0.32; scale 1 to 15) and 1.0 (s.e. = 0.25; scale 1 to 15), respectively, none of which differed from the theoretical expectation of unity. The expected difference in profitability at slaughter between progeny of the high and low BCI sires was €42, whereas the observed phenotypic profit differential of the progeny was €53 in favour of the high BCI sires. Results from this study indicate that the BCI is a useful tool in the selection of genetically superior sires, and that actual progeny performance under the conditions of this study is within expectations for both bull and steer beef production systems.