Plans to boost returns for sheep farmers marketing hogget

Matakanui Station owner Andrew Paterson runs 19,000 sheep at his Central Otago farm, but like many farmers he believes young hogget lambs are undervalued.

"It's what farmers have always known. It's the better type of meat to eat," he says.

And it's just really wanting to get it out to the customer, and showcasing that it actually is just as good - if not better - than the lamb that we are selling."

Lambs transition to hoggets at just under a year old, once they've cut their first adult teeth.

Being bigger animals, they have more fat colour and flavour but many farmers are under pressure to get sheep off to the works early, before they become adults and lose value.

"If we could get that hogget market going, it opens up a lot more opportunity. It doesn't force the farmer to try and feed that animal quicker, earlier," Mr Paterson explains.

There can be a price difference of $60 an animal between lamb and mutton.

Meat company Alliance Group is trying to close that gap and create a premium market for hogget.

They have created a pilot programme in the UK targeting the ethnic food market, resulting in higher prices for the meat.

"Consumers are experimenting more, chefs are experimenting an awful lot more. And what hogget provides is a meat that is much more developed, more textured, more flavoured," Alliance Group sales GM Shane Kingston says.

The company's working to ensure it selects the right animals to live up to that "premium" marketing, and building on our grass-fed reputation.

"We are able to produce an excellent product, best meat in the world," Mr Paterson adds.

Rewarding farmers with better returns and getting the most out of sheep that are older than lambs.