ABSTRACT: The use of lambs from crossing of local with specialized sheep breeds for meat production may lead to higher meat deposition and a smaller fat amount in the carcass, with a more adequate nutritional profile for human consumption. This study investigated the performance, carcass and meat characteristics of lambs from the Morada Nova and Santa Inês locally adapted hair breeds and crosses between Dorper × Morada Nova and Dorper × Santa Inês slaughtered at approximately 35 kg. Morada Nova lambs showed lower (p < 0.05) performance compared to the other genetic groups resulting in a higher age at slaughter (p < 0.05). Crossbred Dorper × Santa Inês and Dorper × Morada Nova lambs showed better characteristics for meat production with better (p < 0.05) conformation as well as leg and carcass compacteness index. Dorper × Santa Inês have a fatty acid profile that is more suitable for human consumption than Dorper × Morada Nova lambs do (p < 0.05); however, both had lower (p < 0.05) intramuscular lipid content (as measured by ether extract levels from Longíssimus lumborum) compared with purebred lambs. Therefore, when the objective is to obtain lean meat, with improved nutritional profile to reduce risks of cardiovascular disease, the use of breeds and crosses that reduce animal slaughter age, such as the ½ Dorper × ½ Santa Inês crossbred, is an interesting alternative.