Crossbred pigs (n = 216) were used to test the interaction, if any, of ractopamine (RAC) and dietary fat source on the characteristics of fresh pork bellies. Pigs were blocked by BW (77.6 +/- 6.5 kg) and allotted randomly to pens (6 pigs/pen). After receiving a common diet devoid of RAC for 2 wk, pens within blocks were assigned randomly to 1 of 4 treatments arranged in a 2 x 2 factorial design, with 5% fat (beef tallow vs. soybean oil) and RAC (0 vs. 10 mg/kg). At the conclusion of the 35-d feeding period, pigs were slaughtered at a commercial pork packing plant (average BW of 108.8 +/- 0.6 kg), and fresh bellies were captured during carcass fabrication. Neither RAC (P = 0.362) nor fat source (P = 0.247) affected belly thickness. Subjective (bar-suspension) or objective (compression test) measures of belly firmness were not (P > or = 0.148) affected by the inclusion of RAC in the diet; however, bellies from pigs fed soybean oil (SBO) were softer than those from pigs fed beef tallow (BT), as indicated by perpendicular (P < or = 0.005) and parallel (P < 0.001) suspensions. Moreover, bellies from BT-fed pigs required more (P = 0.096) force to compress 50% of their thickness than bellies from SBO-fed pigs (52.29 vs. 43.51 kg). Color (L*, a*, and b* values) of the belly lean and fat was not (P > or = 0.131) affected by RAC, and lean color was similar (P > or = 0.262) between fat sources; however, belly fat from BT-fed pigs was lighter (P = 0.030) and redder (P = 0.013) in color than belly fat from SBO-fed pigs. Bellies of SBO-fed pigs had greater (P < 0.001) proportions of PUFA and lower (P < 0.001) proportions of SFA and MUFA than belly fat from pigs fed BT. Regardless of the RAC inclusion level, PUFA:SFA and iodine values were lower in belly fat from pigs fed BT than SBO; however, within SBO-fed pigs, PUFA:SFA and iodine values were further increased by feeding RAC (RAC x fat source, P < 0.001). As expected, dietary fat source altered the fatty acid composition of fresh pork bellies, which subsequently impacted fresh belly firmness. Interestingly, including RAC in swine finishing diets exacerbated the effect of feeding SBO on pork fat polyunsaturation.