In order to investigate the long-term effects of equol (Eq) on growth and meat quality in broilers, 0 μg (control, Con), 20 μg (low dose, L) and 100 μg (high dose, H) Eq, respectively, were injected into fertile eggs (146 eggs per group) on 7 days of embryos. After hatch, chickens were fed under the same conditions and slaughtered at 49 days of age for sample collection and analysis. The results showed that body weight and composition were marginally affected by Eq administration (P > 0.05). Compared with their male counterparts, the meat quality of female broilers was affected greatly after Eq administration. The redness (a*) of meat color in the L and H groups of female broilers was significantly decreased by 24.10% and 21.50% (P < 0.01), respectively; cooking loss decreased by 12.11% and 16.82%, respectively, in the L and H groups (P < 0.01); 24 h and 48 h drip loss was significantly decreased by 60.27% and 45.72% (P < 0.05), respectively, in the H group. However, for male broilers, only cooking loss was significantly decreased by high dosage of Eq treatment (P < 0.05). The antioxidative status was analyzed for discovering further the mechanism behind the improvement of the water-holding capacity caused by Eq in female broilers. The activity of glutathione peroxidase (GSHPx) in plasma was greatly increased by 15.94% in the L group (P < 0.01), whereas the total superoxide dismutase activity (T-SOD) and the content of malondialdehyde in plasma were not changed (P > 0.05). The T-SOD activity in the breast muscle of the L and H groups were significantly improved by 23.14% and 18.82% (P < 0.05), respectively. GSHPx in the breast muscle of the H group showed a tendency to increase (P = 0.06 < 0.1). These results indicate that Eq injection in ovo does not affect the growth of broilers, but significantly improves the water-holding capacity of the muscle, especially in female broilers, which is related to the improvement of antioxidative status.