Subway's Chicken Is Only 50% Chicken, DNA Study Finds

Subway’s chicken is a ruse.

The fast-food chain’s poultry might seem like a viable alternative to less healthy options -- no one really eats the Italian B.M.T. -- but according to an investigation by Canada’s CBC, Subway’s chicken is lacking in something quite fundamental to chickens everywhere: chicken DNA. In fact, the sandwich peddler’s poultry is largely composed of soy -- which, the last time we checked, is not chicken. We are treading firmly in poultrygeist territory here.

A DNA examination of six Subway sandwiches and wraps found that the chain’s grilled chicken contains 53.6% chicken DNA, while its chicken strips contain a modest 42.8%. Soy comprises the lion’s share of the rest in both instances.

Matt Harnden -- a researcher at Trent University's Wildlife Forensic DNA Laboratory -- conducted the study, which seems to suggest that fast food companies might not always be forthcoming about the sourcing of their product. Hmm…

As the research explains:

“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.”

Other chicken sandwiches from popular fast-food restaurants contained a far higher degree of real chicken.

  • Tim Horton’s Chipotle Chicken Grilled Wrap: 86.5%
  • A&W’S Grilled Chicken Deluxe: 89.4%
  • Wendy’s Grilled Chicken Sandwich: 88.5%
  • McDonald’s Country Chicken: 84.9%

Regarding the company’s phantom poultry, a Subway spokesperson told the CBC: “Our recipe calls for one per cent or less of soy protein in our chicken products... we will look into this again with our supplier to ensure that the chicken is meeting the high standard we set for all our menu items and ingredients.”

Home-cooked chicken packs about 25% more protein than the fast food chicken sandwiches and wraps, according to the study. Unsurprisingly, fast food chicken contained between 7 and 10 times as much sodium as a piece of unadulterated chicken.

So maybe consider buying yourself a real chicken breast at the supermarket. Just beware of the white lines.

Sign up here for our daily Thrillist email, and get your fix of the best in food/drink/fun.

Sam Blum is a News Staff Writer for Thrillist. He's also a martial arts and music nerd who appreciates a fine sandwich and cute dogs. Find his clips in The Guardian, Rolling Stone, The A.V. Club and Vice. He's on Twitter @Blumnessmonster.