Subway Chicken — 50 Percent Chicken, 50 Percent Filler?

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March 14, 2017 | 156,443 views

Story at-a-glance

  • Tests reveal Subway chicken strips and oven-roasted chicken contain just 43 percent and 54 percent chicken, respectively. The remainder is soy and other filler ingredients
  • On average, fast food chicken contains about 25 percent less protein than home-cooked chicken breast, thanks to water infusions and fillers. Fast food chicken also contains surprisingly high amounts of refined starches and sugars
  • Thousands of studies link unfermented soy to a wide range of health problems. The majority of soy grown is also genetically engineered and may be heavily contaminated with carcinogenic herbicide

By Dr. Mercola

By now you may have heard the shocking news: Subway "chicken" may contain just 50 percent chicken.1 The rest is filler. As reported by Time magazine:2

"According to tests performed at Trent University in Canada, the company's chicken strips and oven-roasted chicken contained just 43 percent and 54 percent chicken DNA, respectively, consisting otherwise of soy and other filler ingredients."

Subway denies the charges and has demanded a retraction from CBC Marketplace, yet admits it is "concerned by the alleged findings." According to Subway, its chicken strips and oven-roasted chicken contain less than 1 percent soy protein.

"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," the company said in a statement.3

Popular chicken sandwiches from Wendy's, McDonalds, A&W and Tim Hortons were also included in the testing. All, with the exception of Subway, tested as "mostly" chicken, ranging between 85 and 90 percent chicken DNA.

Subway Chicken — Mostly Filler?

If only half, or less, of Subway chicken is actual chicken, what's the rest of it made of? The filler, it turns out, is a very long list of ingredients, shown in the CBC Marketplace program above. However, a majority of it is soy protein. John Coupland, president of the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), told Time Magazine:4

"Assuming the data is right, that is a surprisingly large amount of soy … And it's astonishingly high for something that you're supposed to think is a real, whole piece of chicken."

On average, fast food chicken contains about one-quarter less protein than home-cooked chicken breast, thanks to water infusions and fillers, and up to eight times more sodium.

Moreover, as noted in the program, while you'd never expect chicken to be a source of carbohydrates, fast food chicken such as that from Subway contain surprisingly high amounts of refined starches and sugars.

Soy Protein Linked to Health Problems

If the test results are valid, there are many reasons for concern. Not only are you being ripped off, paying for chicken that turns out to be 50 percent soy, which is dirt-cheap in comparison, but you're also eating something that could be hazardous to your health, even if you're not outright allergic to soy.

Unlike the Asian culture, where people eat small amounts of whole, fermented non-GMO soybean products, western food processors separate the soybean into two golden commodities — protein and oil. And there is nothing natural or safe about either.

Unfermented soy foods contain anti-nutritional factors such as soyatoxin, phytates, protease inhibitors, oxalates, goitrogens and estrogens — some of which actually interfere with the enzymes you need to digest protein.

While a small amount of these anti-nutrients would not likely cause a problem, the amount of soy many Americans now eat is extremely high.

What's worse, the vast majority of soy grown in the U.S. is genetically engineered (GE) to be herbicide resistant and contaminated with the well-documented carcinogenic herbicide, Roundup.

Soybeans are also processed by acid washing in aluminum tanks, which can leach aluminum into the final soy product, and may contain unsafe levels of manganese as well.

According to Kaayla Daniel, Ph.D., author of "The Whole Soy Story," thousands of studies link unfermented soy to a wide range of health problems, including:

Malnutrition

Kidney stones

Breast cancer

Reproductive disorders

Immune system impairment

Danger during pregnancy and nursing

Infant abnormalities

Heart disease

Cognitive decline

Digestive distress

Food allergies

Brain damage

Infertility

Thyroid dysfunction

Adverse effects in babies fed soy formula, including manganese toxicity, and DNA methylation with unknown implications5

The Hidden Costs of Factory Farmed Chicken

As previously noted by the Cornucopia Institute,6 the price of chicken has dropped dramatically over the past few decades, becoming the cheapest meat available in the U.S. As a result, consumption has doubled since 1970.

Seeing how chicken is supposed to be a healthy source of high quality protein, the fact that it has become so affordable might seem to be a great benefit. But there's a major flaw in this equation. As it turns out, it's virtually impossible to mass-produce clean, safe, optimally nutritious foods at rock bottom prices.

The hidden costs of cheap factory farmed chicken can be divided into three broad categories: ethical costs, environmental costs and human health costs.

In terms of ethical costs, research has shown that chickens are not only intelligent, they experience suffering just as animals higher up in the food chain, including humans. As previously reported by The Cornucopia Institute:7

"Chickens have nervous systems similar to ours, and when we do things to them that are likely to hurt a sensitive creature, they show behavioral and physiological responses that are like ours.

When stressed or bored, chickens show what scientists call 'stereotypical behavior,' or repeated futile movements, like caged animals who pace back and forth."

Environmental Costs of Chicken CAFOs

The environmental costs of chicken CAFOs are quite enormous. Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are notorious for producing massive amounts of offensive and toxic waste that disturbs and pollutes the local eco system.

According to a report8 by Environment America, Tyson Foods Inc. is the worst polluter of U.S. waterways, releasing 104.4 million pounds of toxic pollutants into waterways between 2010 and 2014, second only to a steel manufacturing company.

Of the top 15 polluters on this list, six are food companies, commingling with some of the largest chemical producers in the world. Surprisingly, factory farms are actually exempt from federal water-pollution regulation.9 This despite agriculture being a primary reason why America's waterways fail to meet Clean Water Act standards.10,11 Agriculture is also responsible for nearly one-fifth of the entire U.S. carbon footprint,12 and is a significant source of air pollution as well.

As recently noted by Brooke Harper, chair of the Maryland-NAACP Environmental Justice Committee, "Exposure to airborne contaminants have been associated with adverse health effects such as asthma and other respiratory illnesses." Harper is currently involved in an effort to determine whether the 100 chicken operations in Wicomico County are contributing to Maryland having the highest rates of heart and lung disease in the U.S.13

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Human Health Costs of Chicken CAFOs

Besides the health ramifications suffered by those who live near CAFOs and are exposed to the environmental contamination caused by these factory farms, cheap CAFO chicken also take a hidden toll on your health when you eat them — in part because their nutrition is inherently inferior, in part because they're contaminated with antibiotics and in part because they raise your risk of contracting a foodborne illness.

Factory farms also spread pandemic diseases among farm animals, and in some cases among humans too. The bird flu is perhaps a perfect example. Mere days ago, Reuters14 reported outbreaks of H5 bird flu strains among wild birds and poultry in Europe, Africa and Asia. And, while the risks to humans is currently described as low, the World Health Organization (WHO) is yet again keeping a close eye on the situation.

In China, human-to-human transmission of H7N9 bird flu is being reported, and 7 percent of these cases have turned out to be drug-resistant — a now well-known side effect of excessive antibiotic use in animal farming, including poultry.

CAFO Antibiotics Pose Severe and Immediate Threat

Scientists have warned us about the rapid emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria for several years now, and the warnings only grow louder. Just last month, WHO stated there are now at least one dozen drug-resistant superbugs posing an enormous threat to human health. Among the most dangerous are methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea. According to The New York Times:15

"The rate at which new strains of drug-resistant bacteria have emerged in recent years, prompted by overuse of antibiotics in humans and livestock, terrifies public health experts. Many consider the new strains just as dangerous as emerging viruses like … Ebola.

Britain's chief medical officer, Sally C. Davies, has described drug-resistant pathogens as a national security threat equivalent to terrorism, and Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the recently retired director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called them 'one of our most serious health threats.'"

On February 22, 2017, a joint report from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) warned they've found high levels of drug resistance in bacteria from humans, animals and food across Europe.16,17 Salmonella, commonly found in pork, which can cause very severe illness in humans, shows particularly high multi-drug resistance.

Shocking Rise in Multiple-Drug-Resistant Infections Among Children

Newsweek also recently reported the results of a study18 showing a rapidly growing number of children are being affected by infections resistant to multiple drugs (MDR):19

"Among approximately 107,000 diagnoses of Enterobacteriaceae infections in the hospital records they examined, the researchers found 724 instances of multi-drug resistance. That's just 1 percent of the infections resistant to antibiotics, but the eight-year span of the study … reveals a shocking trend …

[T]he proportion of these infections that were resistant to antibiotics rose from 0.2 percent in 2007 to 1.5 percent in 2015. 'For the general public, the change from 0.2 to 1.5 percent may not mean a lot,' says pediatrician and epidemiologist Sharon Meropol, who was lead author of the study. 'But for infectious disease experts, it's ominous'…

Most of the MDR infections were present in the children before they arrived at the hospital, which means an increasing amount of superbugs are circulating in U.S. communities."

Soy: It's What's for Dinner

Circling back to soy for a moment, a recent report20,21 by Mighty Earth highlights the environmental impact of soybeans. More specifically, the report accuses Burger King of buying soy from plantations created by burning down tropical forests.

"To examine the impact of Burger King's operations, we focused on the ultimate source of much of their meat: the soybeans that feed the livestock that the company uses to make its meals. Soy is an important base ingredient of the world's meat. Approximately three-quarters of the world's soy goes to animal feed," the report notes.

"…Burger King has a lot to hide: The fast food giant has failed to adopt any serious policies to protect native ecosystems in the production of its food. Despite pressure from consumers, it continues to rank dead last among its competitors … when it comes to protecting the environment.

Companies found in Burger King's supply chain have been linked to ongoing destruction of forests and native prairies — habitat for wildlife like sloths, jaguars, giant anteaters and other species.

Unlike many of its competitors, Burger King has repeatedly turned down requests from civil society organizations to commit to only buying from suppliers who don't engage in destruction of forests, or to provide information about where its commodities originate … Burger King scored a zero on the Union of Concerned Scientists' 2016 scorecard of major beef sellers' deforestation profiles, significantly lagging behind other major players like Wal-Mart, McDonald's and Wendy's."

Soy Is Bad, but Roundup Is Even Worse

Glyphosate — the active ingredient in Monsanto's wide-spectrum herbicide Roundup and other pesticides — is the most widely used agricultural chemical in the world. The first glyphosate-tolerant soybeans were introduced in the U.S. in 1994. By 2015, 83 percent of the soy grown worldwide was GE soy,22 and in the U.S. more than 90 percent of soybeans grown are GE.

Less than 1 percent are organic, with the remaining 9 percent being conventionally grown which, like GE varieties, involves the use of herbicides like Roundup.23 Glyphosate contamination is in and of itself a major reason to avoid foods containing soy protein. And if Subway chicken really contains as much soy as the Canadian test suggests, it would be a significant reason to avoid it too. Remember that less than 1 percent of soy is organic and free of pesticides.

In March, 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a research arm of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the "gold standard" in carcinogenicity research, reclassified glyphosate as a "probable human carcinogen" (Class 2A).24 Research scientist and consultant Anthony Samsel has also reported he uncovered evidence showing Monsanto knew glyphosate promotes cancer as far back as 1981.

Based on the IARC's determination, the California agency of environmental hazards (OEHHA) has declared glyphosate a carcinogen under Proposition 65, and will require all glyphosate-containing products to carry a cancer warning. Monsanto attempted to overturn the OEHHA's decision, but a Fresno County Superior Court Judge ruled against it.25,26,27

Monsanto Fights to Keep Lid on Roundup Cancer Cover-Up

More than 60 plaintiffs are also suing Monsanto, claiming Roundup caused or contributed to their or a loved one's non-Hodgkin lymphoma. In its defense, Monsanto has relied heavily on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) hotly contested determination that glyphosate is "not likely to be carcinogenic" to humans, issued on September 12, 201628 — more than a year after the IARC classified it as a probable carcinogen.

According to a recent court filing29 requesting the deposition of Jess Rowland, former associate director of the EPA's Pesticide Health Effects Division,30 the EPA's favorable ruling on glyphosate was reached to protect Monsanto's interests.31 As recently reported by Bloomberg:32

"A federal judge said … he's inclined to order the retired official, Jess Rowland, to submit to questioning by lawyers for the plaintiffs, who contend he had a 'highly suspicious' relationship with Monsanto … Plaintiffs say the litigation has turned up documents showing that Rowland … was 'straining, and often breaking, ethics and rules to benefit Monsanto's business.'

Internal Monsanto communications reveal a push to publish the report by Rowland's Cancer Assessment Review Committee to 'preempt other potential actions or inquiries about the dangers of glyphosate' … Another exhibit is a letter from a former EPA scientist to Rowland arguing there are scientific grounds for the EPA to reclassify glyphosate from a 'possible human carcinogen' to a 'probable' cancer-causing agent."

Where to Find Wholesome Food

With all the drawbacks associated with conventional agriculture, CAFOs and processed fast food, your best bet is to forgo restaurants and choose fresh, locally produced foods. You can also grow some of your own. Remember to choose organic, grass-fed/pasture-raised beef, poultry and dairy, in addition to organic produce. If you live in the U.S., the following organizations can help you locate farm-fresh foods:

American Grassfed Association

The goal of the American Grassfed Association is to promote the grassfed industry through government relations, research, concept marketing and public education.

Their website also allows you to search for AGA approved producers certified according to strict standards that include being raised on a diet of 100 percent forage; raised on pasture and never confined to a feedlot; never treated with antibiotics or hormones; born and raised on American family farms.

EatWild.com

EatWild.com provides lists of farmers known to produce raw dairy products as well as grass-fed beef and other farm-fresh produce (although not all are certified organic). Here you can also find information about local farmers markets, as well as local stores and restaurants that sell grass-fed products.

Weston A. Price Foundation

Weston A. Price has local chapters in most states, and many of them are connected with buying clubs in which you can easily purchase organic foods, including grass-fed raw dairy products like milk and butter.

Grassfed Exchange

The Grassfed Exchange has a listing of producers selling organic and grass-fed meats across the U.S.

Local Harvest

This website will help you find farmers markets, family farms and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.

Farmers Markets

A national listing of farmers markets.

Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals

The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, hotels and online outlets in the United States and Canada.

Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA)

CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms.

FoodRoutes

The FoodRoutes "Find Good Food" map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSAs and markets near you.

The Cornucopia Institute

The Cornucopia Institute maintains web-based tools rating all certified organic brands of eggs, dairy products, and other commodities, based on their ethical sourcing and authentic farming practices separating CAFO "organic" production from authentic organic practices.

RealMilk.com

If you're still unsure of where to find raw milk, check out Raw-Milk-Facts.com and RealMilk.com. They can tell you what the status is for legality in your state, and provide a listing of raw dairy farms in your area.

The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund33 also provides a state-by-state review of raw milk laws.34 California residents can also find raw milk retailers using the store locator available at www.OrganicPastures.com.

[+]Sources and References [-]Sources and References

  • 1 Healthy Home Economist March 3, 2017
  • 2, 4 Time March 1, 2017
  • 3 CBC Marketplace Blog February 24, 2017
  • 5 Environmental Health Perspectives DOI:10.1289/ehp.125-A61
  • 6, 7 Cornucopia Institute July 7, 2014
  • 8 Environment America February 4, 2016
  • 9 Investigate West August 16, 2012
  • 10 Office of Wetlands, Oceans and Watersheds
  • 11, 12 Alternet May 11, 2009
  • 13 Maryland Reporter February 28, 2017
  • 14 Reuters March 1, 2017
  • 15 New York Times February 27, 2017
  • 16 CIDRAP February 22, 2017
  • 17 Reuters February 22, 2017
  • 18 Journal of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society February 22, 2017
  • 19 Newsweek March 1, 2017
  • 20 Mighty Earth, The Ultimate Mystery Meat Report
  • 21 The Guardian March 1, 2017
  • 22 Biotech Crop Highlights in 2015
  • 23 Mother Jones April 23, 2014
  • 24 The Lancet Oncology March 20, 2015
  • 25 LA Times January 27, 2017
  • 26 Organic Authority January 31, 2017
  • 27 Investopedia.com January 30, 2017
  • 28 EPA.gov, September 12, 2016, Glyphosate Issue Paper, Evaluation of Carcinogenic Potential (PDF)
  • 29 US District Court, Case: 3:16-md-02741-VC (PDF)
  • 30 EPA Office of Pesticide Programs Organizational Chart, March 10, 2015
  • 31 Huffington Post February 13, 2017
  • 32 Bloomberg February 27, 2017
  • 33 The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund
  • 34 The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund, State by State Review of Raw Milk Laws