Compliance Food Safety

Fast food chicken: testing Subway, McDonald’s, A&W, Wendy’s and Tim Hortons

What’s in your chicken sandwich? DNA test shows Subway sandwiches could contain just 50% chicken.

If you’re one of many who opt for chicken sandwiches at your favourite fast food restaurant, you may find the results of a CBC Marketplace investigation into what’s in the meat a little hard to swallow.

A DNA analysis of the poultry in several popular grilled chicken sandwiches and wraps found at least one fast food restaurant isn’t serving up nearly as much of the key ingredient as people may think.

In the case of two popular Subway sandwiches, the chicken was found to contain only about half chicken DNA.

Subway’s oven-roasted chicken sandwich patty contained about 50% chicken DNA, according to Marketplace’s tests.

DNA researcher Matt Harnden at Trent University’s Wildlife Forensic DNA Laboratory tested the poultry in six popular chicken sandwiches.

An unadulterated piece of chicken from the store should come in at 100% 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% target.

The Peterborough based team tested the meat in:

  • McDonald’s Country Chicken (grilled)
  • Wendy’s Grilled Chicken Sandwich
  • A&W Chicken Grill Deluxe
  • Tim Hortons Chipotle Chicken Grilled Wrap
  • Subway Oven Roasted Chicken Sandwich
  • Subway Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki (chicken strips)

In the first round of tests, the lab tested two samples of five of the meat products, and one sample of the Subway strips. From each of those samples, the researchers isolated three smaller samples and tested each of those.

They were all DNA tested and the score was then averaged for each sandwich. Most of the scores were “very close” to 100% chicken DNA, Harnden says.

  • McDonald’s Country Chicken (grilled) averaged 84.9%
  • Wendy’s Grilled Chicken Sandwich averaged 88.5%
  • A&W Chicken Grill Deluxe averaged 89.4%
  • Tim Hortons Chipotle Chicken Grilled Wrap averaged 86.5%

Subway’s results were such an outlier that the team decided to test them again, biopsying five new oven roasted chicken pieces, and five new orders of chicken strips. Those results were averaged: the oven roasted chicken scored 53.6% chicken DNA, and the chicken strips were found to have just 42.8% chicken DNA. The majority of the remaining DNA? Soy.

What else is in there?

On the whole, Marketplace’s testing revealed that once the ingredients are factored in, the fast food chicken had about a quarter less protein than you would get in its home-cooked equivalent. And overall, the sodium levels were between seven and 10 times what they would be in a piece of unadulterated chicken.

The sandwiches tested contain a combined total of about 50 ingredients in the chicken alone, each with an average of 16 ingredients.

The sandwiches tested contain a combined total of about 50 ingredients in the chicken alone, each with an average of 16 ingredients. The ingredients run the gamut from things you would find in your home such as honey and onion powder to industrial ingredients — all of which, Bohrer insists, are safe and government approved for human consumption.

McDonald’s, A&W and Wendy’s wouldn’t break down exactly what ingredients are used in what proportions, citing proprietary information. Tim Hortons had no comment and directed Marketplace to their website.

Source: CBC


1 comment

  1. This testing was found to be massively flawed, starting with the fact you would only use DNA testing to prove it was a certain type of chicken or fish, not to determine what percentage of what is in something. An ELISA test is the standard for seeing what percentages is in things. One can look up the critiques and subsequent testing results that agree with these establishments claims readily on the web.

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