The cows might be telling us to "Eat Mor Chikin," but does it really have to be Chick-fil-A chicken? The company, which according to QSR Magazine ranked number 8 overall for U.S fast food sales in 2018, already out-earns McDonald’s (ranked number 1 overall) by about $1.4 million in sales on a per location basis, and is the number one chicken slinger in the country, easily beating out top competitors KFC and Popeye’s. So they’re clearly the biggest, but does that mean they’re the best?
There are plenty of persuasive arguments as to why you shouldn’t hit up Chick-fil-A when a fried chicken sandwich craving hits, and it’s not just the company’s political views or history of employee discrimination. There’s also the food to consider — CFA zealots will say that the chain’s chicken sandwiches are tops, but we’re not so sure (and others aren’t either). It turns out that the sandwich isn’t even the most popular item on their own menu. In fact, for two years running their waffle fries have claimed that title, and we think we know why.
Although hard core fans might disagree, these are all the reasons you should never eat at Chick-fil-A again.
The sandwiches are super salty
We all know that with fast food comes a fair amount of sodium — it’s part of the reason it tastes good — but do you really know just how much you’re taking in when you hit the drive-thru? Time reports that consumers are woefully underestimating the amount of sodium in their fast food — by an astonishing 650 percent.
So how does Chick-fil-A rank when it comes to sodium? It’s not good. At 1350 mg, the CFA Chicken Sandwich is well above the sodium content of other comparable fast food chicken sandwiches. McDonald’s McChicken has just 590 mg, while Wendy’s Crispy Chicken Sandwich has only slightly more at 600 mg. Considering the daily recommended maximum sodium intake is 2,300 mg, chowing down on one Chick-fil-A sandwich is fairly detrimental to your diet.
This higher sodium content is likely due to the brine that the breast is bathed in, which yes, should make the chicken more tender and juicy — but at a price.
And they still aren’t that good
There’s no question that salt makes food taste better, so perhaps that explains the sky-high sodium content of the Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich — they just want it to taste better. But there’s an easy way to add more flavor without turning food into a salt lick, and in the case of a chicken sandwich whose only ingredients are bun, chicken, and pickles, we’ve got to look at the chicken itself.
Simply put, boneless skinless chicken breast — CFA’s meat of choice — just doesn’t have a lot of flavor, and that has to do with fat content. Compare a 3-ounce chicken breast, which contains 3 grams of fat, to a 3-ounce thigh, which contains 9 grams, and the problem becomes obvious. Since we know that fat equals flavor, we can easily surmise that a chicken thigh sandwich would be a whole lot tastier than that plain ol’ breast.
Eater writer Ryan Sutton agrees on the subject of the flavorless breast, saying, "Problem is, Chick-fil-A’s chicken has too much salt, not enough fat, and very little crunch. The chief flavors of the sandwich are industrial neon pickle, sugar, and peanut oil."
The sauce just complicates things
Chick-fil-A offers seven flavors of sauces, all of which definitely have their appeal. Who wouldn’t want to jazz up their plain chicken sandwich with a creamy Garlic & Herb Ranch Sauce, or a sweet and spicy Sriracha Sauce? And of course, we can’t forget everyone’s favorite — the classic Chick-fil-A Sauce.
The problem is that when you load up your plain ol’ sandwich with an entire packet of Chick-fil-A sauce, probably in an effort to give that boneless skinless chicken breast a bit of flavor, you’re really upping the ante on the calorie and fat content of your meal. The standard Chicken Sandwich comes to you unadulterated — only bun, chicken, and pickles — at just 440 calories and 19 grams of fat. That doesn’t sound so bad, right? But add on the contents of the Chick-fil-A Sauce bucket and suddenly the fat content of your sandwich just shot up to 32 grams. Yes, that tiny container contains 13 grams of fat (and 140 calories).
Is the oh-so-tasty barbecue sauce and honey mustard mixture worth it? That’s entirely up to you.
The fries really aren’t that great
The waffle fries might be the most popular item on the Chick-fil-A menu, but do they really deserve that title? In theory, any time you toss potatoes into a deep-fryer the result should be fantastic, but CFA’s just aren’t. "Chick-fil-A fries are good but I don’t think anyone is beating down the door at Chick-fil-A just for the fries," Arthur Bovino, executive editor of The Daily Meal told Fox News.
A fantastic french fry needs that super crisp exterior, and pillowy soft interior — which is decidedly not how one would describe Chick-fil-A waffle fries. "Generally waffle fries are not as well crisped… When I’ve have Chick-fil-A waffle fries they are bigger and not as crispy…" Bovino explained.
Your best chance at getting decent CFA fries? Food critic Seth Cardoza says "they have to be hot and fresh." For what it’s worth, Bovino says he’d head to McDonald’s to get the best fries, and we have to agree.
There’s a history of employee discrimination
The "corporate purpose" listed on the company’s website reads: "To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come into contact with Chick-fil-A." Given that, one might assume that discriminating against employees — whether it be due to gender, disability, or any other reason — would be off the table. But their track record suggests otherwise.
According Forbes, the company was sued at least 12 times between 1988 and 2007 on charges of employment discrimination. One former Muslim employee alleges he was fired after refusing to participate in a group prayer to Jesus Christ — a suit that was "settled on undisclosed terms."
In 2011, Chick-fil-A had a lawsuit brought against them for gender discrimination, citing a "pattern of discrimination against female employees."
And most recently, the company was again accused of discrimination, this time against disabled job applicants. After an autistic man tried to apply for a job, the 2016 lawsuit alleges that the CFA manager told the applicant’s job coach that "Chick-fil-A was not interested in hiring people with disabilities" and "people with disabilities would not be able to succeed at Chick-fil-A."
That’s probably enough to make you second guess supporting them, no matter how much you like their sandwiches.
You might disagree with their politics
If you believe in equal rights, Chick-fil-A will likely leave a bad taste in your mouth — and it won’t just be due to the flavorless chicken breast this time.
When it came to light that the company had a history of making millions of dollars in donations to groups who opposed same-sex marriage, LGBTQ groups and their allies were outraged. COO Dan Cathy doubled down in the press admitting that he was "guilty as charged" and said, "We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that… We intend to stay the course. We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles."
These donations and comments sparked boycotts (and still do), and companies even severed ties with CFA, eventually prompting a post on the company’s Facebook page saying (via the The Washington Post) that their company culture is to "treat every person with honor, dignity and respect — regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender," and that "going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena."
They give seriously questionable nutrition advice
When it comes to diet and nutrition, Chick-fil-A has some interesting ideas that seem to have the company’s bottom line in mind more than their customer’s health.
In 2016, CFA’s "Great ideas for healthier living" ad campaign was splashed across their to-go bags. One of those great ideas? "Kick off the New Year by adding one healthy habit to your routine. Here’s a good one: Eat smaller meals (like an 8-count pack of grilled nuggets) every three to four hours."
Now, grilled chicken nuggets are obviously better than battered and fried, and it’s true that some nutritionists recommend eating many smaller portions throughout the day in favor of three huge meals. But this Chick-fil-A diet would have you consuming incredible amounts of sodium, not to mention all the other negative effects that much fast food could have on your system. Registered dietitian Alissa Rumsey told CBS News, "It is not something I’d recommend on a daily basis, and certainly not multiple times per day."
Perhaps this campaign was meant to be tongue in cheek, but it’s bad advice any way you slice it.
They forced us to make our own coleslaw
In 2016 Chick-fil-A pulled the fan favorite coleslaw side dish from its menus, a move that angered the masses and prompted online petitions calling for its return. But that’s not the worst part — to add insult to injury, CFA announced its replacement would be… wait for it… a kale salad. That’s right. Rather than the delicious mayonnaise-laden delight, you can now chow down on a superfood salad made up of hand-chopped kale and broccolini topped with dried sour cherries, roasted nuts, and tossed in a maple vinaigrette dressing.
To make matters even worse, when Chick-fil-A caught wind of their customer’s outrage, they decided to let us all in our their coleslaw secret by posting the recipe online — you know, so we could make it ourselves. Except that the whole point of fast food is that we don’t want to make it ourselves any more than we want a fast food kale salad. Looks like it’s soggy waffle fries from here on out.
Others are doing it better
We have news for you — Chick-fil-A is not the only chicken game in town. And depending on who you ask, they’re not the best, either.
Our own team at Mashed concluded that Shake Shack’s Chick’n Shack reigned supreme over the CFA Chicken Sandwich, saying, "Chick’n Shack is a perfect example of what even a simple chicken sandwich can be, when you take time to balance the different elements and source good ingredients."
The Chicago Tribune came to to same conclusion, ranking Shake Shack over Chick-fil-A, due to a lack of crisp coating of the CFA chicken. "This was not even close. Shake Shack’s offering had the crackliest crust, the juiciest meat and the best toppings," Tribune reporter Nick Kindelsperger wrote.
Are these rankings subjective? Sure, but plenty of people sure do seem to agree that Chick-fil-A falls short compared to its competitors.