Angus and Hereford beef is marketed internationally for apparent superior meat quality attributes; DNA-based breed authenticity could be a useful instrument to ensure consumer confidence on premium meat products. The objective of this study was to develop an ultra-low-density genotype panel to accurately quantify the Angus and Hereford breed proportion in biological samples. Medium-density genotypes (13 306 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs)) were available on 54 703 commercial and 4042 purebred animals. The breed proportion of the commercial animals was generated from the medium-density genotypes and this estimate was regarded as the gold-standard breed composition. Ten genotype panels (100 to 1000 SNPs) were developed from the medium-density genotypes; five methods were used to identify the most informative SNPs and these included the Delta statistic, the fixation (F st) statistic and an index of both. Breed assignment analyses were undertaken for each breed, panel density and SNP selection method separately with a programme to infer population structure using the entire 13 306 SNP panel (representing the gold-standard measure). Breed assignment was undertaken for all commercial animals (n=54 703), animals deemed to contain some proportion of Angus based on pedigree (n=5740) and animals deemed to contain some proportion of Hereford based on pedigree (n=5187). The predicted breed proportion of all animals from the lower density panels was then compared with the gold-standard breed prediction. Panel density, SNP selection method and breed all had a significant effect on the correlation of predicted and actual breed proportion. Regardless of breed, the Index method of SNP selection numerically (but not significantly) outperformed all other selection methods in accuracy (i.e. correlation and root mean square of prediction) when panel density was ⩾300 SNPs. The correlation between actual and predicted breed proportion increased as panel density increased. Using 300 SNPs (selected using the global index method), the correlation between predicted and actual breed proportion was 0.993 and 0.995 in the Angus and Hereford validation populations, respectively. When SNP panels optimised for breed prediction in one population were used to predict the breed proportion of a separate population, the correlation between predicted and actual breed proportion was 0.034 and 0.044 weaker in the Hereford and Angus populations, respectively (using the 300 SNP panel). It is necessary to include at least 300 to 400 SNPs (per breed) on genotype panels to accurately predict breed proportion from biological samples.