How can an alleged single ingredient be less than 100% of that ingredient? That's what researchers at Trent University's Wildlife Forensic DNA Laboratory were surprised to find when conducting tests on several fast food chicken meals.

While it isn't really surprising that chicken served in restaurants didn't show 100% chicken, based on DNA testing, because of seasonings and marinades. It was surprising that one fast food giant's chicken came it at 54% for one dish and an astonishing 43% for another.

The most unsettling factor in these findings to me is the restaurant in question, Subway, sells itself to consumers as a "healthy choice" when it comes to dining.

The Trent University findings were reported by the CBC, the Canadiana Broadcasting Company. In an article by Artstechnica.com here's what the study found about the DNA properties of chicken meals sold at different convenience food distributors across Canada.

  • Subway Oven Roasted Chicken Sandwich: 53.6%
  • Subway Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki (chicken strips): 42.8%
  • McDonald's Country Chicken – Grilled: 84.9%
  • Wendy's Grilled Chicken Sandwich: 88.5%
  • A&W Chicken Grill Deluxe:  89.4%
  • Tim Hortons’ Chipotle Chicken Grilled Wrap: 86.5%

As you might imagine the people at Subway had a comment on the findings.

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 cite with respect to the proportion of soy content. Our chicken strips and oven roasted chicken contain 1% or less of soy protein. We use this ingredient in these products as a means to help stabilize the texture and moisture. All of our chicken items are made from 100% white meat chicken which is marinated, oven roasted and grilled. We tested our chicken products recently for nutritional and quality attributes and found it met our food quality standards. 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.

So, if you aren't eating chicken in your chicken sandwich then what exactly are you eating? In the case of Subway, it was determined that soy was the other primary ingredient. The story broke down the breakdown of ingredients this way.

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.

It should be noted that Subway nor any of the other convenience food restaurants mentioned in this study have not done anything outside the law or is in any way a violation of specified health standards.