New statistics from Beef and Lamb New Zealand confirm a lift in meat export returns.
Lamb, mutton and beef prices all picked up during the first nine months of the export season.
The value of lamb shipments rose by 10 percent to top $2 billion, despite a 3.6 percent drop in the amount of product shipped as a result of fewer lambs coming off farms.
Beef export returns increased by almost 6 percent, to $1.85 billion but the big shift was in mutton exports; the amount of mutton shipped shot up 17 percent as a result of farmers getting rid of sheep from dairy conversions and earlier processing of ewes at meat plants.
The value of mutton exports in that nine months grew by 32 percent, to $430 million.
A Beef and Lamb spokesperson said with the increased trade to China, more mutton was being shipped in carcass form at the expense of higher-value cuts.