Fat is back on the menu with the Omega Lamb Project, which is aiming to condition ewes and lambs to have a particular level of fat.
More than 15,000 lambs have reached the programme's requirements for higher polyunsaturated fatty acids, intramuscular fat and omega-3.
The project is part of a primary growth partnership, between Alliance Group, Headwaters Group and the government.
Omega Lamb Project general manager Mike Tate said a decade of research has been done already.
"It's really about finding the right combination of genetics and forage which give the best-tasting lamb, but also the best for your lamb.
"Fat has really been regarded the villain for some time but really it's the hero ingredient in what we're doing. By selecting the right fats, we're producing a product with omega-3 levels which are second only to oily fish.
The results have already been tested in Auckland restaurants, Mr Tate said.
"One of the most exciting things about the project is we're focussing on the fatty acid profile for animal and human health - but the outcome has been that the product tastes amazing and chefs have responded to it really well."
They were looking to position their lamb at the top end of the market, which would give farmers higher returns, he said.
"We're still exploring how big that premium can be in the market, but certainly chefs are willing to recognise it as a premium."
It was quite a process to get animals up to the standard required, he said.
"We've looked at 500 different genetic lines, we've looked at many different forage combinations. Part of this is at every stage of the value chain; linking and implementing best-practice orientated at this final consumer product."
Omega Lamb Project was expecting to announce a deal with a distribution partner soon.