Stearoyl-CoA desaturase 1 (SCD1) greatly contributes to the unsaturated fatty acids present in milk and meat of cattle. The SCD1 enzyme introduces a double bond into certain saturated fatty acyl-CoAs producing monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA). The SCD1 enzyme also has been shown to be active in the bovine mammary gland converting t11 18 : 1 (vaccenic acid) to c9 t11 conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). The objective of this study was to determine any association between the gene expression of SCD1 and occurrence of its products (c9 14 : 1, c9 16 : 1, c9 18 : 1, and c9 t11 18 : 2) in various bovine tissues. Tissue samples were obtained from lactating Holstein cows (n=28) at slaughter, frozen in liquid nitrogen and stored at −80 °C. Total RNA was extracted and converted to complementary DNA for quantitative real time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis of the SCD1 gene. Extracted lipid was converted to fatty acid methyl esters and analysed by GC. Tissues varied in expression of SCD1 gene with mammary, cardiac, intestinal adipose, and skeletal muscle expressing greater copy number as compared with lung, large intestine, small intestine and liver (371, 369, 328, 286, 257, 145, 73, and 21 copies/ng RNA, respectively). Tissues with high mRNA expression of SCD1 contained greater SCD1 protein whereas detection of SCD1 protein in tissues with low SCD1 mRNA expression was very faint or absent. Across tissues, the desaturase indices for c9 18 : 1 (r=0·24) and sum of SCD products (r=0·20) were positively correlated with SCD1 gene expression (P<0·01 for both). Within each tissue, the relationship between SCD1 gene expression and the desaturase indices varied. No correlation was detected between SCD1 expression and desaturase indices in the liver, large and small intestines, lung, cardiac or skeletal muscles. Positive correlations, however, were detected between SCD1 expression and the desaturase indices in intestinal adipose tissue (P<0·02 for all) except 14 : 1, whereas only c9 18 : 1, c9 t11 18 : 2 and sum of all desaturase indices were positively correlated with SCD1 expression in mammary tissue (P⩽0·03). Overall, the relationship between SCD1 gene expression and occurrence of its products seems to be tissue specific.