The country's biggest sheep meat processor Alliance is calling for more merino farmer suppliers for its Silere brand, as Asian demand for the meat grows.
Alliance took over the brand Silere from New Zealand Merino and Silver Fern Farms last year, when it wanted to expand its portfolio of premium products.
Silere Merino's season is very short and more lambs are needed to meet the strong demand, Alliance marketing manager for premium products Wayne Cameron said.
Processing here started at the end of September and goes through until Christmas, which is winter in Asia and when consumers prefer to eat lamb.
"In China and Hong Kong they really like eating lamb over the Chinese New Year," he said.
Merino sheep are lean animals and their meat has quite a different taste to other breeds of lamb, which is also going down well with Chinese consumers.
"Quite a clean palette aftertaste, which is really important in Asia. There have been challenges in the paste with lamb [because] people don't like that mutton aroma, that greasy mouth feel," he said.
More and more demand for merino meat is coming from New Zealand chefs too, who want the stronger flavour of hogget meat.
That has led Alliance to contract its exisiting suppliers to provide hoggets, which are usually less valuable than lambs.
"The ambition is to remove that window of cutting teeth and be able to have a premium product, making sure we catch it [hogget] when it is at its best eating quality, as opposed to some arbitry date that was set 100-odd years ago."