BACKGROUND: Microarray profiling has the potential to illuminate the molecular processes that govern the phenotypic characteristics of porcine skeletal muscles, such as hypertrophy or atrophy, and the expression of specific fibre types. This information is not only important for understanding basic muscle biology but also provides underpinning knowledge for enhancing the efficiency of livestock production. RESULTS: We report on the de novo development of a composite skeletal muscle cDNA microarray, comprising 5500 clones from two developmentally distinct cDNA libraries (longissimus dorsi of a 50-day porcine foetus and the gastrocnemius of a 3-day-old pig). Clones selected for the microarray assembly were of low to moderate abundance, as indicated by colony hybridisation. We profiled the differential expression of genes between the psoas (red muscle) and the longissimus dorsi (white muscle), by co-hybridisation of Cy3 and Cy5 labelled cDNA derived from these two muscles. Results from seven microarray slides (replicates) correctly identified genes that were expected to be differentially expressed, as well as a number of novel candidate regulatory genes. Quantitative real-time RT-PCR on selected genes was used to confirm the results from the microarray. CONCLUSION: We have developed a porcine skeletal muscle cDNA microarray and have identified a number of candidate genes that could be involved in muscle phenotype determination, including several members of the casein kinase 2 signalling pathway.