It’s one of the favorite ploys of newspapers, TV stations and consumer activists: Let’s go buy some packages of ground beef, or a bunch of fast-food sandwiches, take them to a lab, and find out what’s really in them!

Then, of course, the testers go public with the shocking news that the 100% all-beef product you thought you were eating actually contains DNA evidence of — gasp! — other substances.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

And tune into our show/buy our magazine/donate to our cause for more of the same hard-hitting investigations that matter to you and your family.

Here’s the latest such gambit:

A Canadian Broadcasting Corporation news program decided to test the chicken sandwiches from several fast-food restaurants last week. And when they reviewed the data from a Subway sandwich — are you sitting down? — the results were “surprising.”

As the Hamilton Spectator reported, “Canadian customers may have thought they were eating fresh, as the company’s slogan goes. But the meat they were eating was only approximately 50% chicken, according to the DNA researcher who analyzed it.”

Oh-Em-Gee.

The article suggested that the Subway chain’s results were “an outlier.” Why? Because other fast-food chains, such as McDonald’s, were found to have 80% or more chicken in their samples.

Then, the article delivered the crushing blow:

“That’s how Subway became the latest company to be labeled with one of the most pithy and withering insults in all of foodservice: mystery meat.”

We Want to Know — Not
“Mystery meat” is a term that gets tossed around way too frequently. It originated with school cafeteria menus from 50 years ago (been there, ate that), which indeed managed to serve up some awfully strange proteinaceous chunks smothered in a questionable sauce that was labeled as “gravy,” but more closely resembled the paste we used to glue little pictures we’d colored onto construction paper to show our parents how gifted we were.

In contemporary times, mystery meat joins pink slime and to a lesser extent SPAM as pejoratives tossed around by people who know nothing about food processing but who eagerly wolf down everything from M&M Peanut Butter Monster Cookie Blizzards to platefuls of (hopefully rinsed off) raw oysters to entire reservoirs of Cheez Whiz, disguised, of course, as “Nachos Supreme” and selling for only $12 bucks a serving at your favorite local sports stadium.

But chicken, with other ingredients?? Unacceptable!

In fact, the CBC’s DNA analysis determined that the “other ingredient” in the Subway sandwich was soy protein, which is commonly used as a binder in processed foods, and which, by the way, there are thousands of vegetarian activists out there who insist it’s a far healthier choice than poultry.

Subway officials, for their part, have refuted the CBC report and demanded a retraction.

“The stunningly flawed test by ‘Marketplace’ is a tremendous disservice to our customers,” Suzanne Greco, Subway president and chief executive, said in a statement. “The allegation that our chicken is only 50% chicken is 100% wrong.

“Our chicken is made with 100% chicken and spices and marinade,” Greco added. “The findings as reported on the show are wildly inaccurate.”

Subway then released its own analysis conducted by two independent research laboratories, according to the company. Those tests identified plant protein at 10 parts per million, which is less than 1% of the sample.

The CBC issued another statement “standing by its report.”

Meanwhile, you can practically hear the shouting:

“We demand to know exactly what’s in that chicken sub!”

…said no Subway customer, ever.

Editor’s Note: The opinions in this commentary are those of Dan Murphy, a veteran journalist and commentator.