Chick-fil-A, Subway Are Adding a Dash More Integrity to Their Recipes

Subway turkey submarine sandwich on wrapper with subway logo USA.
Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG) has been championing the "food with integrity" mantra for years, and now more of its peers are catching on. Chick-fil-A and Subway are the latest quick-service restaurants preparing to tweak their offerings to remove unnatural or controversial ingredients.

Chick-fil-A is moving to only purchasing chickens that haven't been treated with antibiotics. Farmers use antibiotics to treat disease or to stimulate growth, but there are fears that the wholesale use of antibiotics in the nation's food supply will increase our resistance to antibiotics when we actually need it -- when we're sick.

Subway is removing azodicarbonamide -- a chemical that's also found in shoe soles and yoga mats -- as a dough conditioner. The practice was called into question by blogger Vani Hari, tying Subway to the elasticity-fortifying chemical. Yes, this is the same blogger who convinced Chick-fil-A to improve its menu last year.

Subway will act on eliminating azodicarbonamide right away, but Chick-fil-A is giving itself five years to deal with its antibiotics problem to give its suppliers time to comply. The moves are still significant. With 1,700 locations, Chick-fil-A is the country's second-largest chicken chain after KFC, a unit of Yum (YUM). Subway is the global fast-food leader, with 41,270 sandwich shops across 104 different countries.

Even Chipotle Isn't Perfect

Chipotle strives to work with family farmers who respect the land and treat their animals humanely. It also refuses to use dairy products from cows raised on synthetic hormones. However, Chipotle concedes that it doesn't always live up to its expectations.

"Whenever possible we use meat from animals raised without the use of antibiotics or added hormones," it explains on its website. "We source organic and local produce when practical."

Whenever possible? When practical? That certainly gives the restaurant chain some wiggle room. However, Chipotle's actions and its operating success have inspired many other concepts to follow suit.

It's a Revolution

Subway and Chilf-fil-A's changes put them among a long list of companies that have cleaned up their acts after being confronted with unwise practices.

Starbucks (SBUX) is one of the best known examples. Two years ago, it began to catch some heat for its use as cochineal as a food dye. What's cochineal? It's actually a dye derived from the bodies of crushed beetles, in this case used to add a lovely red hue to Starbucks' Strawberries & Creme Frappuccino, raspberry swirl cake, strawberry and banana smoothie, and other baked treats.

It's a natural food dye, but its presence on the ingredient list didn't sit well with vegetarians and folks who prefer not to ingest ground up insects.

Chipotle's mantra has been primarily positioned as an argument for sustainable farming of animals. This means raising livestock in humane habitats.
Chipotle earned critical praise three years ago when it rolled out a short film depicting a farmer who transforms his industrial meat factory into a more sustainable operation. Willie Nelson belts out a rendition of Coldplay's "The Scientist" in the rendered clip, which was also shortened into a television commercial.

Still, that idea hasn't gained enormous traction, simply because the pork, poultry, and beef raised that way costs more. But some are paying attention.

Wendy's (WEN) announced last year that it wants to move its ham and bacon sourcing to gestation stall-free pork suppliers. Just like Chick-fil-A with its antibiotic-free chicken, Wendy's is setting its goal for several years in the future. The burger chain's aiming to use stall-free pork by 2022.

However, things have to start somewhere. Given the success that Chipotle's been having -- sales rose nearly 18 percent last year -- it's easy to see why so many of its peers are ready to hop on the bandwagon.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Chipotle Mexican Grill and Starbucks. The Motley Fool owns shares of Chipotle Mexican Grill and Starbucks.

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February 25 2014 at 7:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Oh wow . chick-fil-A giving itself FIVE YEARS to stop...WOWOWOWO , i wonder how they can possibly manage that ...They SUCK !

February 20 2014 at 10:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Shop "project GMO free" labels America. Genetically modified foods aren't required to be labeled and the manufacturers have spent a lot of money keeping it that way. Your polititians are voting against truth in labeling. Educate yourself, you are what you eat.

February 20 2014 at 5:54 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

"Whenever possible we use meat from animals raised without the use of antibiotics or added hormones," it explains on its website.
So, we really have no idea if they are or are not using animals raised with or without antibiotics or hormones. Well, figured it was a good marketing strategy.

February 20 2014 at 12:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

More integrity ? Neither on these two corporation had any to start with - WAKE UP people, BUY LOCAL from our small community business' !

February 20 2014 at 12:13 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Anyone telling you high fructose corn syrup is not very bad for you has something to do with making it or selling the poison . The FDA should be replace with people who care! And not about profit ! look at your food labels its in almost everything if it is the first ingredient it has the most of that product

February 20 2014 at 12:04 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to copperking59's comment

You food labels are being controled by tis Obomber appointment ...hope and change..

February 20 2014 at 12:45 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

As part of the chemical process used to make high fructose corn syrup, the glucose and fructose -- which are naturally bound together -- become separated. This allows the fructose to mainline directly into your liver, which turns on a factory of fat production in your liver called lipogenesis.

This leads to fatty liver, the most common disease in America today, affecting 90 million Americans. This, in turn, leads to diabesity -- pre-diabetes and Type 2 diabetes. So, high fructose corn syrup is the real driver of the current epidemic of heart attacks, strokes, cancer, dementia, and of course, Type 2 diabetes.

February 20 2014 at 11:56 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

They are both right wingnut corporations that advertise on RL hate radio. Do not patronize Subway or Chick fil A.

February 20 2014 at 11:44 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to jamarthurs's comment

Another Christian hating liberal. You people are so predictable with your Alinski type hate and ridicule.

February 20 2014 at 7:13 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I don't patronize either one, due to this fact Jamarthurs. The right is obviously out to destroy our country and take us back to the Dark Ages. We need to move forward with the rest of the world. The right is always so angry and always so afraid of the future.

February 20 2014 at 7:50 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Subway and others get caught adding chemicals to foods to enhance either their appearance or taste and for what? When money talks conscience walks! In the case of Subway, I wonder if their deli meats (turkey, salami, ham, and others) contain nitrates and nitrites as a preservative. My guess is that they do. I think it is well known that those substances are not healthy ingredients for anyone to consume, yet Subway and others market their foods as healthy. Again, "when money talks, conscience walks!" I wonder!

February 20 2014 at 11:06 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

These companies only seem to get religion when they're "outed". Why are they serving antibiotic filled factory meat products and bread with chemicals anyway? It's about time the food industry was outed and ingredient lists put front and center. We'd be a healthier country with a healthier food supply. Where's the FDA?

February 20 2014 at 9:24 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply