A group breeding a premium Wagyu-style lamb is looking to recruit more farmers as it aims to scale up production.
Te Mana Lamb is bred in the New Zealand high country and costs about 50 percent more than normal lamb.
It is marketed as being to lamb what Wagyu is to beef, with a fine marbling of Omega-3 fats achieved through breeding and grazing on a specific type of chicory pasture.
The product is part of the Omega Lamb Project, a programme which started in 2015 and involves New Zealand's largest sheepmeat exporter Alliance Group, the Ministry for Primary Industries and 35 farmers.
Project general manager Mark Williamson said it was aiming to increase the total value of lamb and the share of value captured in New Zealand.
"Lamb sheep production has really declined in comparative profitability compared to other land uses like dairy, but there is a lot of New Zealand's farming territory which is really most suited to sheep production, and so those farmers really need to look at how to improve the profitability."
"Obviously one of the best ways to do that is to get into a much more premium product category," he said.
Te Mana Lamb was being sold in premium restaurants in New Zealand, Hong Kong and the UK and Mr Williamson said it now had its sights set on North America.
Mr Williamson said the group produced 48,000 lambs last year and was aiming for 65,000 to 70,000 this year and hoping to produce more than 100,000 next year.
There was an an active programme of looking to recruit new farmers but they had to be the right fit, he said.
"We are producing a very different, premium product therefore care and attention to detail is really important to us, animal traceability is very important to us, very high standards of animal welfare," he said.
"People need to be happy that they are going to go the extra mile to do those things, but in the long term they will certainly get a superior return.
Stu Pankhurst, who finishes Te Mana Lamb on his mixed-cropping farm in Aylesbury, mid-Canterbury, said the lambs required extra time and close monitoring of feed quality and stocking levels.
They had even cut down on using dogs to move the sheep as stress on the animals could lift PH levels and affect meat quality.
Mr Pankhurst said premium, not commodity, products were the way forward for the sheep meat industry.
"We've been lamb finishers for 20-odd years, done the same thing for years, ended up with the same result for years.
"This is something new, somebody doing something different with lamb meat, and it's what we needed," he said.