If you’ve ever gone to Subway and looked with some skepticism at what are purportedly chicken breasts, your raised eyebrows may have been justified. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) launched an investigation into the composition of fast food chicken, and released their findings last week. It was good (or at least decent) news for most of the companies put under the microscope, but it definitely wasn’t good news for Subway.
The CBC took chicken samples from five places — McDonald’s, Wendy’s, A&W, Tim Hortons, and Subway — and used DNA testing to check the composition of food that is anything but straightforward chicken. The first four samples were about 85 to 90 percent chicken, which is reasonable — the composition also includes spices and sugars added for taste, although those numbers are still lower than what the companies promise in advertising.
Results were much worse for the two Subway samples. The chicken strips from the Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki and the breast from the Oven Roasted Chicken Sandwich were found to be 42.8 percent and 53.6 percent chicken, respectively, with the rest of the composition largely made up of soy. That’s certainly edible, but with Subway claiming their chicken is very near 100 percent chicken, it’s not a good look nonetheless.
There are some caveats. Originally, the CBC only tested one sample from each location, so this was by no means a scientific study. In addition to there being a possible anomaly or a mistake in testing, it’s possible that the issue is, for whatever reason, an isolated problem for that location or region. The Subway results were so surprising that the team tested five more samples of the chicken strips and breasts, and found similar results — while that makes an anomaly unlikely, it’s still possible that the issue is limited to one area or to Subway Canada.
It might depend on the supplier Subway is using for their chicken, which the company said they would investigate in a statement sent to the CBC. In the statement (specifically from Subway Canada), the company says in part, “we are concerned by the alleged findings you cite with respect to the proportion of soy content” and that they “will look into this again with our supplier to ensure that the chicken is meeting the high standard we set for all of our menu items and ingredients.”
Header image: Michael Rivera (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons