Background. The origins and virulence potential of meat product-associated Escherichia coli are undefined. Methods. Two hundred eighty-seven E. coli isolates (145 resistant and 142 susceptible to trimethoprim-sul- famethoxazole, nalidixic acid, and/or ceftiofur), recovered by the United States National Antimicrobial Monitoring System from retail beef, pork, chicken, and turkey products (from Oregon, Tennessee, Georgia, and Maryland, 2002-2004) underwent polymerase chain reaction testing for phylogenetic groupings and 59 virulence-associated genes. Results. However analyzed, resistant and susceptible isolates differed minimally according to the assessed characteristics. In contrast, the 4 meat types differed greatly for multiple individual traits and aggregate virulence scores. Poultry isolates exhibited virulence genes associated with avian pathogenic E. coli; beef isolates exhibited traits associated with E. coli from diseased cattle. Overall, 20% of isolates qualified as extraintestinal pathogenic E. coli, with poultry isolates exhibiting significantly higher virulence scores than beef and pork isolates (P ≥.001). Conclusions. Within this systematically collected, geographically distributed sample of recent retail meat isolates, the carriage of extraintestinal pathogenic E. coli virulence genes in antimicrobial-resistant and antimicrobial- susceptible E. coli appeared similar, whereas isolates from different types of meat differed, consistent with on-farm acquisition of resistance within host species-specific E. coli populations. A substantial minority of meat-source E. coli (whether susceptible or resistant) may represent potential human pathogens.