A new type of lamb has been developed in the north east of England, combining the rich flavour of mutton with the tenderness of lamb.

It has proved so successful with local chefs that the farmers who produce it want to talk to retailers about selling the product alongside traditional lamb.

Farmer Nick White said the meat came from slower-growing breeds such as Swaledale, which spend two summers grazing on upland pastures. Lambs are killed between 18 and 24 months of age.

They have been fetching four times the standard price, White added. "In the past the trade has considered mature lamb carcasses as a liability, and wouldn't give more than £30 a carcass at this time of year. But selling direct to a butcher got us over £60 a carcass, and restaurateurs have been paying up to £120 for them."

A supply deal with a retailer would not yield such a large premium, White conceded. But he believes the project could aid the survival of the region's hill farms.