Saturday, July 03, 2010

Jack in the Box's Really Big Chicken Sandwich: where's the outrage?

A few months ago, a lot of controversy was generated by KFC's Double Down sandwich: a chicken, bacon and cheese sandwich notable for its lack of a bun. It was decried as being the epitome of gluttony and poor health, a new low for an America struggling with an obesity epidemic. Health experts fumed; bemused pundits blogged. Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert called it "the warped creation of a syphilitic brain."

Amidst all the furor about the Double Down,'s Francis Lam made an interesting observation: if the Double Down had been a traditional sandwich, i.e. with a bun, would anybody have even noticed?
In retrospect, though, the really funny thing about the Double Down is not that it exists, not that it's a dare pretending to be a lunch, but that it would be nothing special if they added a bun to it. Think about it. It'd be like, "What's that? A double chicken sandwich? Pffft. Snooze. Any jackass can make a double chicken sandwich." Somehow, by taking off the processed-food bread, KFC made this thing look deadly.
As if to prove Lam's point, Jack in the Box has just unveiled its Really Big Chicken Sandwich. Like the Double Down, it features two breaded chicken breast fillets, cheese and bacon along with a mayonnaise-based sauce. The only difference between it and a Double Down is that it includes a bun (with some lettuce and tomato as well, perhaps to give it the appearance of being healthy). One reviewer identifies it as a cross between a Double Down and a McDonald's Big Mac.

But healthy the Really Big Chicken Sandwich is not. It clocks in at 748 calories (compared to the breaded Double Down's 540 calories), 44 grams of fat (the Double Down has 32) and 1834 milligrams of sodium (the Double Down delivers 1380). The Really Big Chicken Sandwich also provides a boost of simple carbohydrates (i.e. sugar) that the Double down does not by virtue of its white bread bun. Just about the only metric where the Double Down does worse is cholesterol: it provides 145 milligrams while the Really Big Chicken Sandwich "only" provides 85. On the whole, however, the Really Big Chicken Sandwhich is clearly less healthy than the KFC's Double Down.

Yet, unlike when the Double Down was introduced, there has been no controversy. There have been no reports of outrage from nutritionists. Public health experts are not lining up to admonish Jack in the Box, as they did KFC when the Double Down made its debut. The Really Big Chicken Sandwich has not triggered a new wave of bemoaning for America's unhealthy fast food culture.

In short, Jack in the Box has unveiled a menu item that is worse than the supposedly unhealthy and hyper-gluttonous KFC Double Down, and nobody seems to care. The Really Big Chicken Sandwich is, well, just another sandwich.

Amazing what a difference one little bun can make.

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