With the debut of a new rotisserie-style chicken sandwich on Subway’s menu, the fast food chain has followed through on a promise it made last fall to begin shifting to serving only meat from animals raised without antibiotics. That’s something Consumer Reports and other consumer groups have been urging Subway (and other fast food restaurants) to do, so it was welcome news.

But the fact that a sandwich has "no antibiotic" meat doesn't guarantee it will be healthy or tasty. So before we got too excited, our nutrition experts and professional food tasters decided to check it out. The overall verdict is that the rotisserie-style chicken sandwich has plenty going for it. But we have a few issues with the way this sub is being marketed—and our evaluation left us asking “where’s the meat?”

Nutrition by the Numbers

The sandwich is one of the Fresh Fit options on Subway’s menu. Our dietitians reviewed the nutrition information on the chain’s website and were pretty impressed: 350 calories, 6 grams of fat, and 540 of milligrams sodium for a 6-inch sub.

“We wish it had less sodium, but the sub lands solidly on the healthy side of Subway’s menu, and is a good fast food choice overall,” says Maxine Siegel, R.D. manager of Consumer Reports’ food testing team.

However, consumers checking the nutrition information on Subway’s website could easily be confused. While the text above the nutrition data notes it’s for a 6-inch sub, the picture shows Subway's Footlong version of the sandwich. “Unless you read carefully, you might think the values are for a 12-inch sandwich,” says Siegel.

What’s more, the nutrition information doesn’t account for all the ingredients you see in the picture. Similar to the one used at the top of this story, the image shows a whole-grain roll packed with large pieces of chicken and veggies, and topped with melted cheese. (That’s the way the sub looks in Subway’s ads, too.) The caption reads “try it with melted cheese, crisp veggies, and sweet, zesty honey mustard sauce.” But the nutrition values don’t include the cheese or sauce. Instead, they match the data given in another section of the website that notes that numbers are for the sandwich served on nine-grain wheat bread with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, green peppers, and cucumbers. Adding the suggested cheese and honey mustard sauce to a 6-inch sub raises the calorie count to 430, fat to 11 grams, and sodium to 690 milligrams for Swiss cheese. With American cheese, you get 410 calories, 10 grams of fat, and 870 milligrams of sodium. 

Taste Test

To assess the flavor and quality of the rotisserie-style sub, we purchased six sandwiches from three different Subway locations near our offices in Yonkers, N.Y., for our dietitians and professional food tasters to sample. We asked that our sandwiches be served as pictured—chicken, cheese (we chose Swiss), lettuce, tomato, green peppers, onions, cucumbers, and honey mustard sauce on nine-grain wheat bread. The verdict overall was “tasty.”

“The chicken was moist and had a distinct roasted chicken flavor with seasoned browned outer edges and the vegetables were quite fresh,” says Siegel. “The quality and flavor were similar from location to location, but one store had notably larger chicken chunks and a more well-toasted roll that enhanced the complexity of the sandwich’s flavor.”

Our tasters found that the mustard sauce’s sweetness complemented the other ingredients, but the cheese had very little flavor, even when tasted on its own.

“I’d suggest skipping the cheese—you won’t miss it,” says Siegel. “If you just use the sauce, a 6-inch sub would have 380 calories, 6 grams of fat, and 660 milligrams of sodium.” 

Short on Chicken?

Recently Subway settled a class action lawsuit brought by consumers who claimed their Footlong sandwiches didn’t quite reach 12 inches. As part of the settlement, the company agreed to institute practices to ensure that the Footlong lives up to its name, including requiring the stores to use a measuring tool, and that seems to be working. We measured eight Footlongs from four Subway locations with a device that uses a laser to get a precise reading. They were all 12 inches.

But we also found that Subway may have another size problem. The sandwiches we bought for our tasting, while not unappetizing-looking, didn’t resemble the image of a roll piled high with large pieces of chicken like the ones used on Subway’s website and in their ads.  “Our subs were smooshed," says Siegel, and you couldn’t see the chicken.”

At the stores, our shoppers noticed that the chicken was in preportioned containers. And Subway told us that a 6-inch sub has 3 ounces of chicken and a Footlong has 6 ounces. The ones we bought to taste didn’t appear to contain that much, so we purchased six Footlongs and six 6-inch sandwiches with just chicken (no toppings) and scooped the meat out of the roll to weigh it. The average weight of the meat in the 6-inch subs was 2.2 ounces. For the Footlongs, it was 4.9 ounces. That’s 27 percent and 18 percent less than the amount of chicken Subway said the sandwiches should contain. At one of the locations, the counterperson told our shopper that he was giving him extra meat because he wasn’t getting other toppings, so we didn’t factor in those two samples.  

In an email, Subway said: "The chicken is pulled apart by hand at each sandwich shop into bite-size pieces. The staff then weighs the chicken to be used on the sandwiches. We will use this opportunity to reiterate that process to the sandwich shops as a way to reduce any human error in the measuring step."