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DNA Test Shows Subway's 'Chicken' Only Contains 50 Percent Chicken (arstechnica.com) 244

According to an investigation by Canadian media outlet, CBC, the chicken in Subway Restaurants' chicken sandwiches may only contain around 50 percent chicken -- the rest of it is soy, spices and preservatives. The investigation involved DNA testing chicken sandwiches collected from five popular fast food restaurants. While the rest of the sandwiches contained mostly chicken, Subway's oven-roasted chicken and the chicken strips in its Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki sandwich clocked in with just 53.6 percent and 42.8 percent chicken, respectively. Ars Technica reports: Among all the chicken sampled, there was a total of about 50 ingredients other than chicken identified. The chicken samples had an average of 16 ingredients. Some of the ingredients are expected, such as salt and other seasonings. But many were commercial preservatives and fillers. One commonality was that they all had high levels of salt. Subway responded to the CBC in a statement: "SUBWAY Canada cannot confirm the veracity of the results of the lab testing you had conducted. However, we are concerned by the alleged findings you had conducted." You can read the full statement here.
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DNA Test Shows Subway's 'Chicken' Only Contains 50 Percent Chicken

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  • Read the response... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Frosty Piss ( 770223 ) * on Tuesday February 28, 2017 @05:47PM (#53949599)

    The companies in question - Wendy's, Subway, McDonalds, Tim Horton's - responded HERE [www.cbc.ca].

    Their responses sound reasonable, so either they are lying or the "DNA tests" are not accurate.

    • by tpgp ( 48001 ) on Tuesday February 28, 2017 @05:59PM (#53949691) Homepage

      Yes, read the response, but like all communications from large companies, you have to read it critically

      For example, from the end of Subway's response:

      We 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.

      Translate this into normal english and it is "We do not adequately QA our supply chain & our lowest-bid supplier is giving us a chicken/soy blend. We only care about this because we just got caught out"

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by HornWumpus ( 783565 )

        I have cut up a lot of chickens. Never seen any chicken parts that look remotely like Subways. Clearly extruded food, like a chicken 'nugget'.

        McDonald's and Wendy's claim to be serving 'chicken breasts'. I don't eat McShits, but the Chicken at Wendy's does look like an actual chicken breast, just a very small one.

        • The chicken at Wendy's is real chicken. The reason it's not 100% is if you have the breading on it (crispy style), the seasonings, etc. You just can't mix up chicken with soy in a blender and have the outcome resemble chicken with the same texture. I don't think it's that small either at Wendy's, too much of it hangs out the side of the buns.

      • Subway's latest communique:

        We recognize that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so our imitation chicken is leading us all into a new, more courageous* future, where we will be 100%, BRAVE, not CHICKEN!

        "courageous" is the intellectual property of Apple Inc. "chicken" includes, but is not limited to, dog, cat, yeast, nuclear waste, chicken feathers, beaks, claws, recycled newspaper (for that genuine cardboard-y takeout taste).May include nuts. May not include chicken..

      • Is it me, or does it seem like you are getting mostly bread and paying more for it? Don't get me wrong. The other sub making sandwich companies are many times worse than Subway, those guys empty your wallet and fail to fill your stomach. With their "fancy name, or appearance" sub sandwiches.
        • I eat vegetables in my sub that I hardly eat otherwise? And no it's not just lettuce.
        • by swb ( 14022 )

          Most restaurants that sell sandwiches are primarily trying to sell you a very large hunk of bread with as little protein as possible. It's not just sub shops, it's anywhere.

          I went low carb for a couple of years and one of the shocking things was ordering sandwiches and even hamburgers and finding out that there was very little meat inside. I often had to order two sandwich items to get enough food to not feel extremely hungry.

          One of the few places where I don't feel like I'm just being fed bread is Potbel

          • by Bongo ( 13261 )

            Low carbing is a real education in what food is really made of.

            I don't know about the US but at least in the UK the labelling is fairly sane, as far as I know.

        • Is it me, or does it seem like you are getting mostly bread and paying more for it? Don't get me wrong. The other sub making sandwich companies are many times worse than Subway, those guys empty your wallet and fail to fill your stomach. With their "fancy name, or appearance" sub sandwiches.

          I eat subway maybe once a week and load up on all of the vegetables. The $6 footlong deal with carved turkey and all the veggies is two meals. I consider it a decent deal.

          • Why would anyone choose turkey in a sandwich? It's like chicken but with even less taste, and chicken is basically tasteless to start with.

            Turkey is fine if you coat it in breadcrumbs or batter and fry it in butter, but then so is almost anything else, including courgettes and Mars Bars.

      • Their QA is probably working just fine. They probably actually SPECIFIED the formula that was uncovered by the DNA tests, in order to cut costs.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@NosPam.world3.net> on Tuesday February 28, 2017 @06:07PM (#53949749) Homepage Journal

      All but Subway were over 80% chicken. That's what you would expect, they are quite open about adding seasoning and yeast etc. No problem at all.

      Subway's result needs explanation. It can't be accounted for by any ligitimate preservation or seasoning.

      • by lgw ( 121541 ) on Tuesday February 28, 2017 @06:17PM (#53949827) Journal

        Maybe I'm just the odd one out, but I really don't care if it's a mix of chicken and soy as long as it tastes good. Soy is not in any way unhealthy, and has plenty of protein.

        • by HornWumpus ( 783565 ) on Tuesday February 28, 2017 @06:24PM (#53949885)

          Subway chicken tastes like festering ass. Just for reference.

          About 2 years ago they were advertising 'new improved chicken'. I asked to see it, didn't buy any. Obvious extruded food.

        • by hackwrench ( 573697 ) <hackwrench@hotmail.com> on Tuesday February 28, 2017 @06:28PM (#53949929) Homepage Journal
          I wouldn't mind if they were upfront about what I was getting. That's where I have a problem.
        • If I want an actual chicken sandwich I sure wouldn't order one from any fast food joint. I'm surprised they contain any chicken at all, it's as you said, you want something that tastes remotely good, is fast and doesn't make you sick.

          I care in that it would be great if they were honest in their marketing, "Look we both know this isn't really chicken but we promise there are only extra inert fillers. There aren't ingredients in here that are really bad for you that build up in your body over time, really"
          • Subway has done a lot to distance themselves from fast food and have chosen to represent themselves as a healthier choice. The whole Jared losing weight by eating only at Subway thing. I don't really consider them a fast food restaurant, they are a sandwich shop.
            • Subway has done a lot to distance themselves from fast food and have chosen to represent themselves as a healthier choice. The whole Jared losing weight by eating only at Subway thing. I don't really consider them a fast food restaurant, they are a sandwich shop.

              That's like McDonalds advertising "fruit bags" as an option for their Happy Meals to show how healthy they are. There must presumably be one original fruitbag in McDonalds HQ somewhere that they took the menu photo of, but I've never seen one in the wild.

              If you try asking for one, they're always "sold out". Their audacity is breathtaking.

        • by vux984 ( 928602 )

          Sure. But then sell me a chicken-soy blend sandwich. Don't sell me soy and tell me it's chicken.

          This is pretty elementary; 'truth in advertising' stuff. If you sell me a single malt scotch should be a single malt scotch. If its its a blended scotch label it that way. Johnny Walker Blue label is excellent scotch. The fact that its a blend doesn't bother me in the least.

          But if I found out my favorite single malt balvenie was actually blended and not disclosed, the fact that they lied about what it was would b

          • But if I found out my favorite single malt balvenie was actually blended

            Unless it's a 'single-cask' release, all scotches are blended - what make a single malt a single malt is that all the whisky comes from a single distillery.

        • The trouble is where they give you chicken-flavoured "meat" but charges the price of real chicken meat.
          • Why, what is the price of meat?
          • I'm sorry, but they don't.

            Footlong Oven Roasted Chicken = 6.75. This is big enough for two meals.

            Chick Fil A Grilled chicken Sandwich only - $4.25. This uses real meat, but you'd need to buy two to last you the two meals the sub lasts you, so $8.50.

            So no, you're not paying more. The sub will fill you up exactly the same for 20% less cash. You also get vastly more veggie options than "just" lettuce tomato abd pickles.

            Also, people complain about "no flavor," but that's why they have a dozen different sauc

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by rtb61 ( 674572 )

          For the ill informed "Raw soybeans, including the immature green form, are toxic to all monogastric animals."(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soybean) and "A monogastric organism has a simple single-chambered stomach, compared with a ruminant organism, like a cow, goat, or sheep, which has a four-chambered complex stomach."(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monogastric), and never to forget "The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America estimates soy is among the eight most common food allergens for pediatric and

          • Raw soybeans are toxic. Cooked soybeans are fine. For most people, soybean products are healthy food.

            There is soy in many, many things, including many sauces and processed foods, so people with soy allergies are not going to be eating at fast food restaurants.

        • Maybe I'm just the odd one out, but I really don't care if it's a mix of chicken and soy as long as it tastes good. Soy is not in any way unhealthy, and has plenty of protein.

          The point is that if it's not actual slices chicken meat, you're basically eating ground up chickens which includes beaks, kneecaps (or whatever they're called on chickens) and a fuckton of artificial ingredients, most of which probably cause cancer and/or make your testicles fall off.

      • All but Subway were over 80% chicken. That's what you would expect, they are quite open about adding seasoning and yeast etc. No problem at all...

        I'm sorry, but given the breakdown of the nutritional numbers and value, there is no fucking way in hell a dietary specialist would label McFood "no problem at all".

        I wouldn't "expect" anything from a fast food vendor other than a corporation peddling lies and ingredients designed to create addiction.

        Subway just happens to be the "healthy" liar who got caught this time.

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          Okay, McShit isn't exactly good for you. What I mean is that their claim that it is chicken is fine. It doesn't have to be 100% chicken and nothing else, seasoning and preservatives are expected.

          All their health claims are dubious, of course.

    • Maybe Subway just need to do this [brocode.org], then they'd be fine.
    • wheres the beef ?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Subway was the only one with a worrying result, the rest were reasonable bearing in mind the preparation of the chicken, as the article states ("An unadulterated piece of chicken from the store should come in at 100 per cent chicken DNA. Seasoning, marinating or processing meat would bring that number down, so fast food samples seasoned for taste wouldn't be expected to hit that 100 per cent target.", and "They were all DNA tested and the score was then averaged for each sandwich. Most of the scores were "

    • A better study would report total protein and attempt to assay proteins and marker entities to distinguish from chicken vs other animal vs soy.
      Of course, the analytical costs on the second part would be higher.
      If the report is true, it might give new meaning and range to the phrase, "rubber chicken"
    • by Anonymous Coward

      New Subway spokesweasel Kellyanne Conway says that Subway is just offering "alternative chicken".

    • They are all saying they made their stuff from 100% chicken, but do not disclose the proportion of chicken versus the rest. For all you know , it could be 49% wheat protein 50% chicken breast , and 1% seasoning and they could still state the truth !
  • by gtall ( 79522 ) on Tuesday February 28, 2017 @05:48PM (#53949603)

    It is impossible to get any processed food that is not laden with salt and sugar. It contributes to high blood pressure and diabetes. Do the food companies care? Or will shipping "product" take precedence over their customers' health?

    • by BeauHD ( 4450103 ) Works for Slashdot on Tuesday February 28, 2017 @05:54PM (#53949641) Homepage
      Nope, salt and sugar sell and companies really only care about profits. You might (not) like this article: https://science.slashdot.org/s... [slashdot.org]
      • by skam240 ( 789197 )

        Well to be fair salt and sugar "sell" because that's what people want to buy. Companies don't stay in business long selling what people dont want to buy.

        • People hate salt and sugar. The advertisements make them buy it.
          • by gweihir ( 88907 )

            As salt and sugar are more expensive than other fillers, clearly it is put in because people want it (well, possibly not consciously).

        • Well to be fair salt and sugar "sell" because that's what people want to buy. Companies don't stay in business long selling what people dont want to buy.

          If companies were lacing their food with heroin or cocaine to get people hooked, there would be an outcry (except on slashdot, of course, where drugs are always a Good Thing). Unnecessary sugar and salt are just a milder version of the same tactic.

    • by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Tuesday February 28, 2017 @06:18PM (#53949831)
      Actually salt doesn't contribute to high blood pressure: https://academic.oup.com/ajh/article/28/3/362/2743418/Relationship-Between-Nutrition-and-Blood-Pressure [oup.com]. This is something that's been shown multiple times in research for a quite a while [scientificamerican.com], but can't seem to overcome this myth that's been propagated for years that it's become one of those things that everyone just "knows" and no one questions or thinks about.

      Sure, salt can make your blood pressure go up, but it would be weird if it didn't. Increase the amount of sodium intake and some of that is absorbed by you cells which then take on more water to maintain a balance in concentration. This makes them swell (which is why if someone is severely dehydrated you can kill them if you give them water too rapidly) and naturally add pressure against blood vessels and increase blood pressure.
      • by eyenot ( 102141 ) <eyenot@hotmail.com> on Tuesday February 28, 2017 @10:13PM (#53950953) Homepage

        A similar myth is that fatty foods lead to clogged arteries. I won't bother to go fetch links but let's just say my room mate was drunk and literally screaming this at me at 2AM once, over and over like a child, and the only way to talk him down was to promise I'd go research it at reputable websites and bring him "the proof". Yes you can refute this myth at such as CDC, Mayo Clinic, etc.

        If anything, most arteries problems are caused by high sodium. Salts osmose water out out cells, causing "hardening", leading to arterial damage, attracting clotting factor, which builds up and is compounded with some forms of cholesterol in some people (but can still be bad enough on its own), which leads to clogged (clotted) arteries. Then you run into this terrible catch-22 with vitamin K where K is needed to repair the arterial damage but K also goes into producing clotting factor. So the doctors tell you to cut K completely out of your diet, eat liver-killing blood thinners, and shift the problem to yet another part of your body while also synthesizing a condition of hemophilia.

        If anything, people worried about clots should cut any high intake of salt out (but not entirely out), not fat out of their diet. Blood pressure completely aside.

        And something else fun to learn is that there is a gut flora that produces something called TMAO that can compound and/or cause any artery problems you might have. The great news? The gut flora produces TMAO from l-carnitine. So take your doctor seriously if they recommend cutting red meat intake entirely.

    • Those evil corporations force feeding everyone!

      Good work to eliminate 'personal choice'.
      If people didn't choose sugar/salt/fat then it would be very unprofitable to supply it.

    • It is impossible to get any processed food that is not laden with salt and sugar. It contributes to high blood pressure and diabetes. Do the food companies care? Or will shipping "product" take precedence over their customers' health?

      Nothing takes precedent over profit.

      Not even legality, which is often worth the gamble due to pathetic punishments.

  • by mi ( 197448 ) <slashdot-2017q4@virtual-estates.net> on Tuesday February 28, 2017 @05:52PM (#53949625) Homepage Journal

    However, we are concerned by the alleged findings you had conducted

    Piffle! That's a totally wrong spin! According to TFA, most of the other 50% is soy — the famously humane and environment-friendly replacement for meat.

    Restaurants should proudly admit to being ahead of their customers on both counts — and wow to make their sandwiches 90% meat-free by 2050, or something like that.

    • by SeaFox ( 739806 ) on Tuesday February 28, 2017 @06:19PM (#53949833)

      However, we are concerned by the alleged findings you had conducted

      Piffle! That's a totally wrong spin! According to TFA, most of the other 50% is soy — the famously humane and environment-friendly replacement for meat.

      If Subway wants to serve 50/50 soy/chicken "meat" they are welcome to. They have to stop calling it chicken, though.
      If I'm paying for chicken, I expect to get chicken, regardless of healthiness/environmental factors.

  • This means that people who would not touch soy products, people who think tofu is disgusting but have never tried it, people who would never order a product called Subway Soy Chicken Sandwich, or Yum Yum Soy Meat-O Chicken Sandwich, have been eating soy product for some time and not caring. Let us all reflect on this valuable lesson about the value of Soy products and how they can provide a delicious and affordable source of protein to millions of people. J Edgar Hoover Subway Corporation
  • by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Tuesday February 28, 2017 @05:54PM (#53949643)

    They obviously used alternative chickens, duh!

  • half a million dollars in attorney’s fees. $1 off coupon for the rest of us.

  • by RyanFenton ( 230700 ) on Tuesday February 28, 2017 @06:01PM (#53949701)

    I enjoy meat myself - but accept that the meat industry is historically filled with some of the worst intentions on the face of the planet. There's a reason that one of the big counters to libertarian philosophy is historical regulation of the meat industry... if they can get away with it, you'd better believe that the industry is going to break just about every rule, custom, ethical guideline and concept of decent human interaction possible.

    Meat, it ain't pretty, it's rarely pure (the fish industry is nigh-hilarious with how it labels things), but it's still an important part of our filthy culture.

    Cutting a 50% mix of soy into chicken isn't shocking compared to most things - and actually matches what I remember of that particular flavor whenever I decided to try chicken again at Subway. Now that I've gotten better at cooking for myself, I find a $6 footlong to be actually a fairly expensive sandwich.

    Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I'll go make a nice couple of egg/bacon/veggie sandwiches. I'm sure it's not completely ethical, and likely contains some genetic engineering (ooh, scary), but for the price, it's a marvel of modern industry and flavor!

    Ryan Fenton

  • They just need to market it better.

  • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Tuesday February 28, 2017 @06:25PM (#53949893)

    "However, we are concerned by the alleged findings you had conducted."

    Is that even a sentence? The findings are not alleged, they are real. You get to say a guy was allegedly killed with an alleged bullet. You can say the alleged killer is Whatsisname because that hasn't been proven. However if a lab signs off on a DNA analysis I can say it's real all I want - if it turns out that it's not then the LAB is in trouble, not me, because the lab certified the results.

    And you don't "conduct findings". Wow, I'm worried that Subway let the junior PR person handle this.

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )

      Is that even a sentence?

      It's a belittling insult dripping with contempt that most likely comes from the top instead of junior PR. Yes it is poor English but that's part of the tactic - look at Rumsfeld for thousands of examples.

  • I remember this same thing happening to Taco Bell. The problem is that chicken meat is already 60-80 percent water, where as everything else is dry ingredients. If the dry ingredients absorb moisture from the chicken does the percentage drop? What exactly are they measuring?
  • Don't you see what's really happening here? SUBWAY has managed hybridize chickens with soy and other plants for spices! Now I know that I am living in the future! ;)

  • So what is the other 50%?
    The article seems ambiguous on this point at best.
    I find it hard to believe that the whole other 50% was just salt and spices, not least because of how bland Subway chicken actually is.

  • by hyades1 ( 1149581 ) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Tuesday February 28, 2017 @07:00PM (#53950129)

    CBC is not a "media outlet". It is Canada's national broadcaster. And it does a damned good job on its news and public affairs, routinely shaming the US networks with its national and international coverage.

  • I remember watching a Subway commercial years ago where Jared was comparing their chicken sandwich to KFC's. He said that they used "real" chicken. So I decided to buy a chicken sub just to confirm what I already know. Their chicken was just a gaint chicken nugget. If KFC is fake there's more convincing.
  • There's supposed to be chicken in there?

  • by burtosis ( 1124179 ) on Tuesday February 28, 2017 @07:52PM (#53950387)
    Salt, sugar, water, and the various other chemical additives don't have DNA. The article is about % DNA. So it's actually worse than one might think. Brine + chicken would come out as 100% chicken. Decent chicken should be 90% even when seasoned and that's close to what a few of the manufacturers actually had. The 43.5% on subway strips should be criminal.
  • "DNA Test Shows Subway's 'Chicken' Only Contains 50 Percent Chicken"

    I'm surprised it contained any chicken at all, frankly.

  • I prefer chicken with 50% soy rather than 100% chicken packed with chicken fat, skin, feathers, and bowels.
  • Subway is the cheapest lunch you can get in many markets - often cheaper than McDonald's on a calories-per-dollar metric. Soy is cheap volume filler and salt makes the flavor more apparent while doubling as an exceptionally cheap preservative. Corporate is doing everything they can to pay their employees as little as possible - while taking as much as possible from the franchisees - and they found this is another way to improve the margin.

    After all they didn't surpass the expansion rate of McDonald's
  • Well, as long as the non-chicken animal content is zero percent ...

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