The objective of this study was to determine whether increasing levels of dietary safflower oil would alter unsaturated fat (especially CLA) and tocopherol content of lamb, animal performance, carcass characteristics, or color stability of lamb muscle tissue. Targhee x Rambouillet wethers (n = 60) were assigned to one of three diets (four pens per treatment with five lambs per pen) in a completely random design. Diets were formulated with supplemental safflower oil at 0 (control), 3, or 6% (as-fed basis) of the diet. Diets containing approximately 80% concentrate and 20% roughage were formulated, on a DM basis, to be isocaloric and isonitrogenous and to meet or exceed NRC requirements for Ca, P, and other nutrients. A subsample of 12 wethers per treatment was selected based on average BW (54 kg) and slaughtered. Carcass data (LM area, fat thickness, and internal fat content) and wholesale cut weight (leg, loin, rack, shoulder, breast, and foreshank), along with fatty acid, tocopherol, and color analysis, were determined on each carcass. The LM and infraspinatus were sampled for fatty acid profile. Increasing safflower oil supplementation from 0 to 3 or 6% increased the proportion of linoleic acid in the diet from 49.93 to 55.32 to 62.38%, respectively, whereas the percentage of oleic acid decreased from 27.94 to 23.80 to 20.73%, respectively. The percentage of oil in the diet did not (P > or = 0.11) alter the growth and carcass characteristics of lambs, nor did it alter the tocopherol content or color stability of meat. Increasing levels of safflower oil in lamb diets decreased (P < 0.01) the weight percentage of oleic acid in the infraspinatus and LM, and increased linoleic acid (P < 0.01). Oil supplementation increased (P < 0.01) the weight percentage of various isomers of CLA in muscle, with the greatest change in the cis-9,trans-11 isomer. Supplementation of sheep diets with safflower oil, up to 6% of the diet, resulted in increasing levels of unsaturated fatty acids and CLA in the lean tissue, without adversely affecting growth performance, carcass characteristics, or color stability of lamb.