Subway Chicken Ruled Not Chicken By Court
If you’ve ever thought that there was something a bit “off” about Subway’s chicken, well, you are not alone. Back in 2017, a team of reporters for the Canadian Broadcast Corporation program Marketplace were curious, too. They sent samples of Subway chicken, along with chicken from A&W, McDonald’s, Tim Hortons, and Wendy’s, to a lab at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario, to test how much of this chicken was actually chicken.
They weren’t expecting anything to come back as 100%—things happen during processing and seasoning—but most of the tests came back showing between 88.5% and 89.4% chicken DNA. Except for Subway. Subway’s “oven roasted chicken” tested as 53.6% chicken and its strips were 42.8%. The rest was soy protein. Perhaps, they thought, there had been a mistake in the lab. But when they tested again, the results were the same.
Marketplace broadcast the results of the study, but not before giving Subway a chance to respond. Subway, predictably, was not pleased. The company filed a $210 million defamation suit, claiming that the story was “recklessly and maliciously” published and that the study itself “lacked scientific rigor.” When the suit went to court, the chain submitted its own scientific evidence that its chicken was less than 1% filler.
The suit was dismissed by the Ontario Superior Court. “The Marketplace report raised a quintessential consumer protection issue,” Justice E.M. Morgan wrote in his ruling. “There are few things in society of more acute interest to the public than what they eat. To the extent that Subway’s products are consumed by a sizable portion of the public, the public interest in their composition is not difficult to discern and is established on the evidence.”