Sandwich behemoth Subway has been dealt a PR blow this week, and although it may not rival the problems the franchise faced with its former spokesperson Jared Fogle—who was arrested for possessing child pornography and paying for sex with minors—the news isn't good. According to a recently released study conducted by Canadian researchers affiliated with the Canadian Broadcasting Company's Marketplace, the chicken served at Subway isn't 100-percent chicken. Far from it, in fact.
Matt Harnden, a DNA researcher with Trent University's Wildlife Forensic DNA Laboratory, conducted DNA testing on multiple chicken products at several fast food chains and found that Subway's oven-roasted chicken, found in its chicken sandwiches, fared poorly—the stuff was allegedly only 53.6 percent chicken.
Pretty bad, huh? Well, hold on: Subway's sweet onion chicken teriyaki strips turned out to be only 42.8 percent chicken. According to the study, the remaining "chicken" was really processed soy.
For its part, Subway vehemently denies the study's findings and provided MUNCHIES with the following statement: "The accusations made by CBC Marketplace about the content of our chicken are absolutely false and misleading. Our chicken is 100 percent white meat with seasonings, marinated and delivered to our stores as a finished, cooked product. We have advised them of our strong objections. We do not know how they produced such unreliable and factually incorrect data, but we are insisting on a full retraction. Producing high quality food for our customers is our highest priority. This report is wrong and it must be corrected."
Subway isn't the only chain that the researchers claim to be selling "chicken" that isn't 100-percent chicken. Testing found that Wendy's grilled chicken sandwich contained only 88.5 percent chicken and that McDonald's grilled-chicken sandwich contained 84.9 percent chicken.
In a statement to MUNCHIES, Wendy's denied that its chicken is anything but chicken: "The grilled chicken served at Wendy's is a juicy, all-white meat, whole muscle chicken breast fillet that has been marinated in a blend of herbs and spices; not reformed or restructured. There are no artificial flavors or colors in our grilled chicken. The only protein source in our chicken is chicken."
McDonald's has not responded to a request for comment from MUNCHIES, but it did dispute the research findings in statements released to the CBC.
According to the test results, Subway's chicken was by far the least chicken-y chicken among the samples. In fact, the results were so off-the-charts that the researchers decided to test an additional five samples, which confirmed the results of the first test.
Of course, this isn't the first time that people have questioned the contents of processed foods and fast-food meats. Not long ago, an American cheese processor was found to be adding cellulose—an anti-clumping agent made from wood pulp—to cheap cheddar cheese and passing it off as 100-percent Parmesan. We're sorry to say that wood pulp in the form of cellulose can be found in lots of foods these days—everything from burgers to onion rings to sauces. But here's some good news: There is no truth to the rumors that McDonald's shakes contain random ingredients like styrofoam balls and feathers.
Editor's note: Since publishing, Subway has provided MUNCHIES with the following statement:
"Two independent laboratories testing Subway chicken have found that alleged test results broadcast on Feb. 24 by the Canadian Television show, Marketplace, were false and misleading. Test results from laboratories in Canada and the U.S. clearly show that the Canadian chicken products tested had only trace amounts of soy, contradicting the accusations made during the broadcast of CBC Marketplace. Subway representatives immediately contacted the program and the lab that conducted the tests to inquire about the methodology and the testing process. The program and the lab declined to engage with Subway except to share the results. In response, Subway sent samples of the Canadian products that Marketplace claimed contained 50 percent soy protein to Maxxam Analytics in Canada and Elisa Technologies, Inc., in Florida.
The results from both labs found soy protein below 10 ppm, or less than 1 percent, in all tested samples. These findings are consistent with the low levels of soy protein that we add with the spices and marinade to help keep the products moist and flavorful.
'The stunningly flawed test by Marketplace is a tremendous disservice to our customers. The safety, quality and integrity of our food is the foundation of our business. That's why we took extra caution to test and retest the chicken. Our customers can have confidence in our food. The allegation that our chicken is only 50 percent chicken is 100 percent wrong,' said SUBWAY President and CEO Suzanne Greco.
Dave Theno, Subway's Chief of Food Safety & Quality, said, 'Our chicken is 100 percent white meat with seasonings, marinated, cooked and delivered to our restaurants. The chicken has no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. Through years of testing, we've never seen results like the program claimed.'
Subway has shared the results of the independent tests with Marketplace and the lab that conducted the flawed test. The company is demanding a retraction and apology."