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Chicken used in Subway chicken sandwiches is only 42.8% chicken

Op-Ed

Chicken used in Subway chicken sandwiches is only 42.8% chicken

Is the chicken you get in commercial large scale food vendors, in products like sandwiches, chicken? Perhaps not.

Subway is a group that targets health-conscious folk, who avoid other fast food. Is it healthy? A recent investigation by CBC Marketplace shows that the chicken used in Subway chicken sandwiches is only 42.8% chicken. The salad chicken, which they claim as healthy oven roasted chicken, is only 53.6% chicken! What is the rest: Genetically modified cheap soy protein, known to be problematic for health. About 50 ingredients were found in the tested sandwiches with an average of 16 ingredients in the chicken itself.

The Wildlife Forensic DNA Laboratory at Trent University conducted the tests. So-called, “chicken” from Subway’s competitors contained 85-90% chicken. Marinated, seasoned and processed chicken is also a mix. The four other chains tested included Wendy’s, McDonalds, A&W, and Tim Horton’s.

Food scientists say the food chains selling meat use “restructured products”. Industry sources refer to this as pink slime, and pictures of this slime leaked from factory assembly lines are available on the Net from 2010. Restructured products, including the pink slime variety, are essentially smaller pieces of meat or ground meat. The meat is mixed with additives, chemicals, lots of Monosodium Glutamate, which is neurotoxic, and fillers like soy protein to make it last longer and taste better.

According to Fooducate, chicken paste comes from taking every bit of meat off chicken bones by passing them through a high-pressure sieve. The taste is so disgusting that artificial neurotoxic flavours, like MSG and many other additives, are mixed in to make it edible. Then colour is added. Since the slime is full of bacteria it is soaked in ammonia to de-germ it. The slime is then used to make a wide variety of chicken-like products.

What is the way chicken is processed? The treatment is now so sophisticated that what seems like a fresh, plump chicken breast (upto 43% injected water) might be only 51 percent meat! Much of this ‘plastic’ chicken goes to curry houses, Chinese restaurants and takeaways, often disguised with highly-spiced sauces and colourings.

Grocers, and supermarkets sell sausages, salamis, luncheons meats, nuggets, burgers made of this pink slime and now technology can even shape out chicken breasts and fillets that are only around 60% chicken. What does the rest comprise of? Extenders (corn starch, wheat flour, stale bread for instance), fillers (in low-cost burgers breadcrumbs, cassava, potato, or rice are used as fillers, often in combination with soya bean protein), water, and soluble binders. Look at the net. This is the kind of Ad you will see when companies advertise TVP or textured vegetable protein- “Textured Vegetable Protein is the perfect meat substitute in almost any recipe that calls for ground beef or turkey.” No, it is rarely used by vegetarians – only people making “meat” products. Normally thrown away carcass parts rich in connective tissue, such as pork skin, tendons are also added and so is gelatine, a transparent goo made of melted skin and bones.

The sausage is another highly extended meat product. These sausages are sold in ‘fresh’ or frozen form and heat treated in restaurants or by the consumer directly at home. One common composition is approx. 60% animal tissue, 15% water, 25% extenders and fillers. In low-cost formulations the major, or entire, part of lean meat derives from mechanically deboned chicken meat, which contains on average 20% fat, which goes straight to your arteries. 

When Leicestershire trading standards received a complaint from a member of the public about the quality of chicken nuggets, they decided to test 21 samples from 17 different shops, including the major supermarkets. In one-third of the samples, the label was misleading about the nugget’s meat content. One pack of nuggets contained only 16% meat, 30% less than it claimed. The trading standards officials are unable to identify the brands involved for legal reasons. Instead, they gave a warning to the worst offender. Subsequent tests recently have shown that the manufacturer has not changed its ways.

Venky’s, an Indian brand which sells processed chicken, has actually made available the meat content of its processed chicken products, The chicken franks are only 70% meat, the chicken lollipops 30%, the meatballs 60 %, the chicken salami 55%, and the murg masala just 30%.

The thing is, once you’ve minced bits of chicken to a pulp, that pulp could be anything from anywhere. Recycled pet food, breasts injected with pig and cattle proteins, banned carcinogenic antibiotics – they’ve all been found by the authorities recently in chicken destined for processing. 

The chicken you eat may have bits and pieces of other animals in it, DNA tests specially developed by Sandford, with the public analyst laboratory in Manchester, enabled the English food standards agency to identify traces of pork proteins in samples of Dutch chicken breasts labelled “halal”. Six months later, Irish authorities made an even more unsettling discovery in chicken: undeclared bovine proteins. Seventeen samples from Dutch processors contained them. Some manufacturers were using a new technique – injecting so-called hydrolysed proteins. These are proteins extracted at high temperatures, or by chemical hydrolysis, from old animals or parts of animals which are of no use for food, such as skin, feathers, hide, bone and ligaments, and rather like cosmetic collagen implants, they make the flesh swell up and retain liquid.

Take the case where McDonald’s sold its customers “chicken” that was over a year passed expiry. Shanghai Husi Food was guilty of selling chicken as much as one year past their expiry dates to McDonald’s and to Yum Brands, which owns KFC and Pizza Hut. An investigative report showed Shanghai Husi workers “picking up food from the floor and throwing it into processing machines and “discarded” McNuggets were reprocessed until they passed inspection. 

This is what happens when the meat industry has decided to make even larger profits at the expense of your health. Meat is bad enough normally, but this is the worst thing you could eat. Is pink slime the best you can do for your children?

*About the author: Maneka Gandhi is a minister in the Union Cabinet led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. She is also a leader of animal welfare movement in India. You may contact her at gandhim@nic.in, www.peopleforanimalsindia.org

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Contributor, zoramobserver.com. Smt Maneka Sanjay Gandhi is Union Cabinet Minister for Women & Child Development in the Government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. She is also an animal rights activist and environmentalist. Views expressed in this column are personal.

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